Autumn sunset for farmers’ markets |

Autumn sunset for farmers’ markets

Cooler temperatures signal more than an upcoming winter; they also mark the end of the farmers’ markets in South Lake Tahoe.

One of the markets, set up in the American Legion Hall parking lot every Tuesday morning, wraps up a strong season Oct. 15 — a bit of a departure from the previous year when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the flavor of things.

But like ripening fruit, time nurtures and heals.

“This market didn’t emotionally recover from that. It took its toll,” said Jim Coalwell, fruit grower and El Dorado-area certified markets manager. He said some vendors were in shock and just packed up early for the day.

In addition to the Legion Hall market, Coalwell organized another market held on Fridays at Kahle Community Park for the first time this year. It closed Sept. 15.

Coalwell said the Kahle market is slow in reaching its full potential, but it has a core group of vendors and customers that has kept his interest.

“We’re going to try to give this one another shot (next year),” he said.

This year’s market for cherries and plums stuttered when a deep freeze in May knocked the fruit off the trees too early.

“But once we got into peaches, the season turned out real good,” Coalwell said.

A shopper would never have picked up on the slow start, judging from the scores of people perusing the fresh fruit, squash and pumpkins Tuesday.

Classrooms have been frequenting the market, learning how to buy produce and what life as a farmer entails.

Tahoe shoppers are a hearty bunch. Even the snow falling last week didn’t deter them from hitting the market — students included.

On Tuesday, Vickie Davidson’s class from Al Tahoe Elementary School walked back to class on Highway 50 from the market with popcorn and flowers.

Nancy Valenzuela, a regular from South Lake Tahoe who buys organic food, scooped out the vegetables — especially the tomatoes.

“Getting fresh tomatoes — there’s nothing like it,” she said.

Valenzuela has cooked fried green tomatoes with sour cream for lunch and dinner over the last three weeks. Even her teenage daughter Brittaney was open to the new cuisine.

The mother and four-year South Shore resident also enjoys the social aspect of farmers markets — bumping into friends each times she visits.

Even the vendors enjoy that part of the market.

“This is the best market for me. I have customers who thank me for being here,” said Charleen Larson, who sells homemade jam and jelly for the Mitchell sisters of Pollock Pines.

She also noted those customers who say their children now compare her labels to jams sold in the grocery store and notice the difference in ingredients.

Larson figured there’s a connection between a mountain town and homemade jam that makes a suitable combination.

Most vendors — the jam makers in particular –said this season was a notable one for business.

Larson tallied about 30 to 35 percent more business this season in comparison to last year.

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