November 21, 2017

Farm to Thanksgiving Table

Tips for a better trip to the farmer’s market

By Sarah Seiter, Associate Curator of Natural Sciences

Even though summer is known best for its bounty, here in California we’re lucky to enjoy fresh produce year-round, and we’ve got local produce on our mind with our upcoming exhibition, Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, that opens on December 16, 2017. It’s all about the ecological and cultural factors of how and why food is grown in Oakland, using interactive features to help us all understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city.

Here in Oakland you could check off the bulk of your produce for Thanksgiving and all other upcoming winter feasts by shopping at local markets! No matter what season you shop, here are our tips to make the most of your farmers market visit.

1. Taste something new!
Farmers markets offer a wide diversity of produce, including some you might not normally find in your grocery store. Is today the day you try long beans? Tackle leeks or bitter melon? Eat the greens attached to your beets? Mix it up! You could even try a food at a different point in its lifecycle, like using coriander flowers instead of leaves.

2. Try a farm stand.
Different than a farmers market, a farm stand is usually located on the farm itself. It’s a great way to meet the farm staff and literally see where your food is grown. Acta Non Verba has a produce stand, and the youth who grow the food get to keep the money from the produce they sell, and use it for educational efforts. Over in West Oakland, the City Slickers farm stand has a sliding scale for buying produce, which is great for providing food access to the neighborhood. If you are able to pay normal farmers market prices, a lot of that money will go to subsidizing the same quality food for lower-income folks living in nearby neighborhoods. 

3. Ask a farmer.
At a farmers market or farm stand, you can ask the growers what’s good right now, or what’s coming up in the next harvest. Especially if you’re branching out to try a new vegetable for the first time, you might ask farmers for cooking tips or recipe ideas—they’re sure to know a delicious way to prepare the food they’ve grown. Bonus tip: Get there early and choose a non-busy time to get to know them.

4.  Explore beyond your neighborhood.
Whether you’re going for for the first time or you already have your favorite, consider expanding your options by trying new markets in different parts of the Bay Area. Branching out can even help you find new foods you might not find at your regular spot, and some even are created to support specific cultural and ethnic communities. For example, the Freedom Farmers Market in Oakland was created so that black farmers would have a place to sell. Although they just wrapped up their market season, you can find them in Temescal selling legacy foods, traditional crops grown by African American farmers. Fruitvale has a thriving farmers market, run by the Fruitvale Unity Council.  And Phat Beets, a local food justice power house, manages two farmers markets in North Oakland. As always, check with the website for hours and schedules before you go.   

Take Root: Oakland Grows Food opens on December 16, 2017 at the Oakland Museum of California.