North Coast Journal


Fresh from the source

by Terry Kramer

One of the pleasures of living in Humboldt County is that even if you cannot grow a vegetable or flower garden, you can still have homegrown produce and fresh cut flowers if you visit the Farmers Market in Eureka, Arcata or McKinleyville. Since more than 80 growers will participate this summer, a wide variety of products will be available, all offered with a personal, local touch, according to market coordinator Jane Jackson.

"This year the Farmers Market will be bigger and better with more participants. This means more produce, especially more variety of produce.

"Of course, it being a certified farmers market means that everything offered for sale has been grown by the people you are buying it from. And that means a lot to the consumer. You can ask the grower how it was grown, what kinds of chemicals were or were not used. If you are buying bedding plants or shrubs, you can find out what kind of climate they were grown in. You get to talk to the horse's mouth," Jackson says.

The Farmers Market has grown since its quiet beginnings in 1978 with the formation of the North Coast Growers Association. Sponsored by federal and local grants, a handful of farmers set up a market in Old Town Eureka under the aegis of NCGA. Now, with more than 80 members and a governing board of directors, the NCGA is farmer-run and sponsors two markets in Eureka, one in Arcata and a new one in McKinleyville. The Arcata market opens the first Saturday in May.

NCGA President Cathy Dolinajec has witnessed firsthand the Farmers Market's changes since the early '80s when she was a grower and market manager.

"When we had the NCGA meeting in 1982 and I was market manager, we had three people come to the meeting. Then the Farmers Market almost died, and that was when we officially became the NCGA and became a farmer-run organization," she said.

"The Eureka market had gone off and on through the '70s. I used to shop at it when I lived in Eureka as a student. When it first started it was just vegetable crops, and then a few flower people started coming," she said. "Then it was a really big thing for a farmer to sell a hundred dollars' worth of produce. Now it is just huge, the volume of produce sold along with flowers and nursery stock."

As a grower who has been with the Farmers Market since 1980, Dolinajec says selling at the markets used to be a bit more laid back and personal.

"They (the markets) were a lot easier going. We didn't have to worry about rules and regulations so much. Once the markets started getting bigger, we attracted more attention. Now there are like four or five licenses and permits each farmer has to hang up," she said.

"A few years ago we all knew each other. All the farmers knew each other really well and now it has gotten so big that I don't know all the other farmers like I used to."

But more growers means more markets. This year Dolinajec says the market is expanding by offering a market on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the McKinleyville Shopping Center starting in June. Last year a McKinleyville market was sprouted, but it fizzled due to lack of support by growers and the community.

"It started out really well, and then it dwindled quickly," Dolinajec said.

"This year we are really going to focus on McKinleyville. We have farmers that say they are committed to going and we (NCGA) are going to commit a fair amount of our advertising and promotional budget. This is the only market that can really expand and grow, so we are hoping that it will become another outlet for the new farmers because the Arcata market has reached its limit," she says.

Jackson has high hopes that the McKinleyville market will succeed.

"The McKinleyville market will kick off on Saturday, May 27, on Kinetic Sculpture Day (because the Arcata Plaza will not be available that day). We are going to have a band, and we are going to try and get as many growers as we possibly can fit and really have a celebration, a grand opening for McKinleyville. Then after the 27th we will open the McKinleyville market in June on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m."

The success of this market depends on the cooperation of farmers and McKinleyville residents, says Jackson.

"We are really emphasizing getting our growers out there this year, and we really need a strong response from the community because once the growers do show up, and they bring their products, if there isn't the consumer there to purchase it, the grower doesn't have any options. Once that tomato is picked and not sold, it soon becomes compost.

"We (NCGA) are very interested in McKinleyville as a community and we want to support them so that they can get the freshest possible product on their tables and in their gardens," she says.

To the community, it doesn't matter how big the Farmers Market becomes, there is still a personal touch, says Dolinajec.

"The community knows their farmers and (the market) also keeps them in touch with what it takes to grow the produce. So many people get so removed from their foods. With the Farmers Market, the people get to know us and they can ask what we do to our crops, even if a farmer is not organic.

"The Farmers Market can be a real personal environment. And we provide fresh produce and varieties that you wouldn't find at the store. And it keeps money in the county," says Dolinajec.

In addition to offering fresh produce and nursery stock, farmers also spend money in the community by supporting North Coast merchants, Jackson says.

"Arcata does real well with 50 farmers in town with their families. They do all their shopping and eating, and then all the market customers come to town and they do their shopping and their eating. It is just a real boost. That is what we are trying to get McKinleyville to understand."

The Arcata Farmers Market opens Saturday, May 6, on the Arcata Plaza. The Eureka Mall Market begins in June on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Old Town Eureka market opens in July on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


GROW FLOWERS -- Start a perennial garden this spring. Plant Shasta daisy, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, daylilies, Geum, coral bells, Echinacea and lupines for easy summer color. Ornamental grasses mix well in perennial gardens, too. Include Festuca glauca, Pennisetum, Miscanthus and Elymus. Mix them with annuals for long-lasting color all summer long.

PLANT VEGETABLES -- Sow seeds of warm-season vegetables like summer and winter squashes, cucumber, corn and beans. Set out herb transplants and tomatoes.

PRUNE -- With thumb and forefinger tip-pinch perennial bloomers like geraniums, fuchsias, marguerites, tall growing marigolds, snapdragons and zinnias to induce bushiness. Tip-pinch rhododendrons and azaleas to keep them shapely. Remove old faded trusses from rhododendrons.

PESTS -- Bait, trap or hand pick slugs, snails, sowbugs and earwigs. Another garden pest to watch out for is the spotted cucumber beetle. It looks like a ladybug, only it is green. Hand pick or spray with insecticide.

SPRAY -- Roses, beans and many other garden plants are susceptible to aphids when the weather gets warm. Spray with insecticidal soap weekly if a problem arises. If green cabbage worms are bothering broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis.

Terry Kramer is a Bayside free-lance writer who specializes in gardening and horticulture.