Last month on my way to the barbecue contest, I exited the freeway and found a huge farmers market. I had a vague recollection of hearing about the year-round Saturday market tucked under the shade of the roadway. While I had less than 15 minutes to spare, I had to check it out. At 8:30am, the market was quite busy and I learned it had already been open for two hours. For those familiar with the Alemany market in San Francisco, the Stockton market looked larger.
The stands are quite simple, often just a few tables of produce behind the delivery truck with no signage identifying the farmer or source. Not that many price tags either but those few I saw seemed to range from 40¢ to $1 with the median around 75¢ for items that we’d pay double or more for in San Francisco. With less than a handful of organic farmers identifying themselves, most of the produce would seem to be conventionally grown. The market manager’s table has a card reader for redeeming EBT (food stamps).
Live poultry prices at the Stockton Farmers market were about 30 to 40% less than at San Francisco's Heart of the City market in Civic Center.
Several seafood trucks had dripping tables of iced fish and shellfish. Two tofu and soy milk producers were parked side by side. I loved the huge range of Asian produce available here. Five varieties of eggplants, each representing a different country, perhaps more wide-ranging types of chile peppers, and a remarkable diversity of Southeast Asian herbs.
In many ways, even more interesting was the United Nations of customers packed into this crowded space and their attempts to communicate with each other in their second language, English. Graceful ladies garbed in colorful silk saris, tiny Vietnamese grandmothers squeezing and inspecting each cherry before plopping any in their baskets, Filipinas sniffing a row of whole fish to decide which to buy, Hmong matrons rifling through piles of fresh herbs to find the largest bunches. I wished I had the time to follow them around to learn how to be a better shopper.
Still, I didn’t do too badly on my own. These cartons of fresh red onions were $1, holding from 3 to 5 pounds of Stockton’s finest apiece.
From another farmer from Merced I bought a bundle of three large Armenian cucumbers for a buck. With my onion purchase, I couldn’t help but be amazed to have a heavy bag of fresh produce that set me back only $2.
Stockton Certified Farmers Market
El Dorado St San Joaquin St, Stockton, CA 95202