Shop early to avoid the crowds.
Taste things when sellers offer tastes to determine what you like best.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Farmers are extremely knowledgeable and happy to share their insights.
Cook a meal from the farmers market.
* Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series that profiles locals who are dedicated Davis Farmers Market shoppers and why they spend their food dollars there.
By Shelly G. Keller
For 35 years, the Davis Farmers Market has hosted thousands of people twice a week year-round. They come to the market for all kinds of reasons: to socialize with friends and neighbors; to picnic and listen to local music at Wednesdays’ Picnic in the Park; and to shop for high-quality, farm-fresh produce and food that’s grown locally by family farmers.
While all this helps the market thrive, the real engine driving its success is the cadre of big spenders who make shopping here a weekly habit.
Stacie and Lucas Frerichs hardly ever miss a market. Stacie does strategic planning for Chevron and serves on the board of the Davis Food Co-op. Lucas is legislative director for Assemblyman Rich Gordon (representing the 21st District) and is a member of the Davis Planning Commission. The couple met at the Davis Food Co-op 11 years ago.
“Lucas was beer and wine buyer for the Co-op, so I’d ask him for beer and wine advice,” Stacie says.
They married in 2003 and are every bit the modern Davis couple: working professionals who are food-savvy, civic-minded and planet-friendly.
Stacie says their food shopping habits straddle the entire spectrum of eating locally.
“We spend 30 to 40 percent of our food budget at the Davis Farmers Market,” she says. “We get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Nevermore Farm in Arbuckle — their philosophy is all about preserving heirloom and rare plants. We also have our own garden.
We do any other shopping at the Davis Food Co-op.”
Lucas says their shopping trips to the Farmers Market are a weekly thing.
“It’s a ritual for us,” he says. “It’s a place where we feel comfortable, where we know the sellers, where we see our friends and other like-minded people. But the biggest draw is the abundance of high-quality produce year-round.”
Stacie agrees: “I like to have that connection with the farmers. I like supporting the local agricultural movement.”
As they move through the market, they greet almost all the sellers. Stacie says sometimes they shop with a plan, and sometimes they don’t. They come to the market with a good idea of what’s missing in their fridge and pantry, and that’s the start of their shopping list.
“Sometimes we’re filling in, sometimes we shop for a specific meal,” she explains.
First stop: Dianne and Mike Madison’s stand to buy a bouquet of flowers. As they leave, Stacie says, “Dianne did the flowers for our wedding. We went to their farm to pick them out.”
Next stop is Fiddlers Green, where they buy a bag of squash blossoms. Stacie says they know market sellers pretty well.
“At least half of them, we’ve been to their farms or their homes. We’ve been to Fiddlers Green,” she says. “They have great greens because they’re in a cooler micro-climate than other local farms.”
They cross over to the Sam Cabral Family Orchard stand where Lucas picks up a jar of chunky almond butter and says with a smile, “We always have this in the house.”
At Good Humus, they exclaim in unison, “Hmmm, peaches!” They talk about how they love Annie Main’s peaches and buy some of her heirloom Suncrest variety.
“The Davis Farmers Market has such high quality, huge variety and lots of choices,” Stacie says. “You can taste five different peaches and buy the one you like the best.”
They buy onions and Yukon gold potatoes at Towani Organic Farm stand. A few steps away at Cache Creek Meat Company, they buy a whole chicken that’s destined for Sunday dinner.
Lucas says he and Stacie regularly have breakfast at the Saturday market: “Usually coffee for Stacie, a roll from Village Bakery and a breakfast sandwich from Fat Face,” he says.
They head over to Fat Face and order the day’s special: a sandwich with bacon bits, farm-fresh corn, basil, parmesan and two fried eggs on focaccia from Village Bakery. Stacie goes to Pachamama Coffee, and with coffee in hand asks Lucas, “Where do you want to eat?”
They choose the oak tree deck and dig in. After breakfast, they load their farm-fresh bounty into a little cart (purchased at the Davis Food Co-op) that’s attached to Lucas’ bicycle, and ride home before heading off to a San Francisco Giants game.
So what brings them to Davis Farmers Market every week?
“The biggest thing is the abundance of produce year-round,” Lucas says. “In so many places, farmers markets operate only in the summertime.”
He says shopping here makes him feel great.
“It goes back to the relationships we’ve built over the years with farmers and sellers. It speaks to their ability to produce such high quality food.”
Stacie likes the transaction.
“I like the farmer-to-customer exchange. My family are industrial farmers in the Midwest and their money comes in less obvious ways,” she says. “I like the fact that I’m paying the farmers money right there, knowing they’ll take that money home. It’s such a satisfying way to spend your money.”
Lucas muses, “The Davis Farmers Market is essentially the heart of Davis. It’s also a place where Davis nurtures itself. It’s a central part of our community identity.”
When asked about that chicken they bought at Cache Creek Meat Company, Stacie replies, “I put a dried-spice rub on the whole chicken, put the chicken on top of cut-up potatoes, onions and mushrooms and roasted it.
“I found a recipe for a squash-blossom, roasted-corn sauce in a Chez Panisse cookbook and made that to put on the chicken. And it was delicious.”
— Shelly Keller is marketing and events manager for the Davis Farmers Market. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org