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Sonoma Farmers Market – Live free-range chickens & ducks

rworange | Aug 26, 200504:09 PM

And they are free … if you can catch them. If you check the bushes there are duck and chicken eggs also.

So many people have recommended the Tuesday night farmers market. At first it was a major disappointment. There are more prepared food and craft vendors than farmers. It is a small market that even in high season doesn’t fill up the driveway in front of the Town Square.

There is a magic there though and it can charm and beckon on a warm mid-summer night. It is somewhat of a town picnic. There is live music and locals carrying picnic baskets and chairs, spread out blankets on the shaded green lawn. Picnics are supplemented with goodies from various vendors.

The baked goods are from Petaluma’s Della Fattoria Bakery. The eggs (not courtesy of the Sonoma Square chickens) are from Aubin Farm of Sonoma.

The vendors seem to be local and mostly organic or on the way to being organic. There are no veggies trucked hundreds of miles. Oak Hill Farms has the largest selection with bags of lettuce and edible flowers. The second largest vendor was Twin Peaks with a dozen unidentified heirloom tomatoes for $2.50 a pound. They had beautiful huge sunburst squash and lovely lemon cukes.

Most of the vendors don’t have names like the vendor with the deep green melons and the ivory tomatoes, some with small pink blushes. There was a strawberry stand and two flower vendors.

The peach vendor said that there was one more week of peaches, two if the weather cooperated. For $1.50 a pound, I had some of the best peaches ever … fragrant, fuzzy and dripping juice, with a flavor that balanced acidity and sweetness. The interior was intensely colored with deep shocking scarlet surrounding the pit.

Arrowsmith farm was one of three honey vendors and also sold the largest squash blossoms I’ve ever seen along with a few herbs like basil. Hector’s Honey was one of the other vendors. Porkey’s was selling some sort of jars of prepared onions.

That was pretty much it produce-wise. It was enough of a selection though for a week’s worth of meals. The prices were low and there was no branding. You had to ask they variety of peach, strawberry or tomato.

Other vendors included a knife sharpener and a few crafts booths. Prepared food included Uncle Bill’s Gourmet corn dogs, Wine Country Chocolates, BBQ Pit ribs, California Pasta Grill, Gold Rush Kettlecorn, and Grammas Pizza. The crepe vendor (Crepevine?) had the longest lines. There were also a few more prepared vendors whose names I forgot since I was lugging a watermelon back to the car. Parking is easy. Spaces surround the square.

As to those chickens. I was rearranging my tomatoes on a shady park bench when I noticed the chickens. I asked the women next to me and she said that people release them on the square. She noted that the population was kept under control and when there were too many some were taken “to a farm’. Sure, just like your old dog went to a farm.

Looking around the web for more info, it turns out that these might be illegal chickens inhabiting the square these days (somehow appropriate in California, eh?). There was a big to-do in 2000 when there was an unprovoked attack on a toddler by a rooster. Feathers flew. Parents called for the chicken banishment from the square. Chicken lovers hinted the two year old was an outsider trying to cause trouble.

Eventually the town decided to ban the birds. As Councilman Ken Brown said after the vote. "But I have to tell you, when it comes to a question between a kid and a chicken, it's the kid." Well, it’s five years later, and the chickens are still on the square.

I wouldn’t call the Sonoma Farmer’s Market a destination, but it is a lovely, lazy way to pass a summer night as long as the chickens behave.

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