When and where guide to farmer’s markets

by Staff

Stephen Finlayson / Staff Photographer

Throughout the week, a sea of collapsible tents and tables line the streets around San Diego. Crowded with fruits and vegetables, fresh-cut flowers and sometimes live entertainment, these portable shopping districts, known as farmers markets, draw loyal weekly customers and onlookers curious about the temporary bustle.

The staple of these makeshift bazaars remains the direct sale of local produce to the public, but each San Diego site offers a unique atmosphere, product assortment and individual venue size.

Hillcrest Farmers Market
Nestled in the perpetually boisterous Normal Street in the typically tumultuous Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot, the Hillcrest Farmers Market is notable for its volume and diversity, and welcomes visitors Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I love farmers markets in general, but the Hillcrest one is great … you get to walk around in the sunlight, there are plenty of produce stalls to choose from … lots of homemade packaged foods … and all kinds of other little things,” market regular Ashley Norwick said.
Those little things include an abundance of flower bouquets, all-natural soaps and a surprising array of exotic foods, with plates prepared on the street for hungry shoppers.

“I could really go on for days,” shopper Robin Leathers said. “I look forward to going to the (farmers market) every Sunday … (It’s) fresh and delicious food really makes life just that much more worth living.”

Ocean Beach Farmers Market

To the west, catering to the midweek clientele, is the Ocean Beach Farmers Market.
Open Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the market’s proximity to this small beach community brings with it all of the eccentricities of the area.

Lining O.B.’s main vein of Newport Avenue are booths stuffed with bright vegetables and blossoming tulips and carnations. Then, unexpectedly, patrons will find themselves surrounded by jewelry crafted from silverware, nuts and plastic. These are the creations of the town’s local artisans.

“(There are) tamales, Asian foods of all varieties, nuts by the bag, gorgeous flower bouquets and every Rasta-themed novelty you can imagine,” returning patron Nicole Crakes said. “(The vendors are) friendly, unpretentious and affordable; the O.B. farmers market is my favorite in San Diego.”

La Jolla Open Aire Market
The La Jolla Open Aire Market is an eccentric, open-air market that takes place every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at La Jolla Elementary School.

Smaller than most markets, the elementary school parking lot manages to pack in a considerable number of tented gazebos. Here, the booths are so close together that they easily form a canopy over shoppers’ heads, though not enough to inspire claustrophobia.
Tomatoes and olive oil appeared to be the stars of one particular day’s gathering, but vibrantly colored summer fruits, a man selling Kenyan food and a lone violinist were just as eagerly welcomed.

“I never have to worry about a meal on Sunday mornings because I can just as easily browse through the free samples they always seem to have (in abundance) here,” frequent market attendee Amanda Marin said. “The setting is quaint and all of the sellers are incredibly nice. I was just offered a bread sample so large it might as well have been a whole loaf.”

San Diego is home to a number of these outlets, where personal interaction between buyers and sellers, information sharing, food and craft ideas remain vital to their success. All of the markets are well worth exploring before the show packs up and leaves for the day.

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