Farmer’s market grew by leaps and bounds this season |

Farmer’s market grew by leaps and bounds this season

Business on and off the hill for farmer’s markets grew by leaps and bounds this season.

“It’s been a great season,” Placerville grower James Coalwell said. He said that the good weather made healthy fruit and vegetable crops this year. His theory: The foothills are an ideal growing location because of the soil drainage. It also helps that the season trails the Central Valley by two weeks, so farmers may cover both territories.

Coalwell grows peaches, plums and pears as a member of the 105-member El Dorado County Farm Trail Association – operators of farmer’s markets in Placerville, El Dorado Hills and South Lake Tahoe.

The latter wrapped up its season with a dusting of snow that didn’t deter the 10 die-hard growers who gathered at the American Legion parking lot off U.S. Highway 50 Tuesday morning. The farmers, averaging 18 serving the booths for the last seven seasons, have come as far away as Fresno to sell in the Tahoe region.

“The whole idea (of farmer’s markets) was to get people to go out and buy directly from the ranch,” he said. But the farmers soon learned they could rake in more business by selling in the same location, he added.

Coalwell, who also serves on the California Federation of Farmer’s Markets, estimated a 30 percent increase in sales for this district from last year. Many growers make $1,000 to $2,000 a week, he added.

Down the mountain, Nevada growers boasted the same level of success this season, Market Manager Sharon Rusk of Sierra Farmer’s Markets said. Rusk said her 20 growers who sell at Lampe Park on Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville also experienced a 30 percent growth rate. These vendors close the season today from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“There’s definitely more awareness. The quality (of the crop) is noticeably different when it is picked ripe,” Rusk said.

This year, the two big surprises came from a grower who brought a kohlrabi, a round turnip-type vegetable slightly smaller than a basketball, and a vendor who bakes doggy treats – showing that sometimes the success of a crop is reflective of the growth of a cottage industry.

“In general, I was pleased I got the product out there. It’s been a good experience,” said Barbara Walsh-Kampstra of Doggy Bake Deli.

In her first year at farmer’s markets, Walsh-Kampstra found herself surrounded by customers of the two- and four-legged nature. She gave out samples of biscuits in a variety of flavors: banana buckwheat, barbecue, garlic veggie, and even biscuits for canines looking for fresh breath. Walsh-Kampstra said she’s sampled each biscuit herself. Four-inch dog pizzas peppered with soy pepperoni became a hit too.

The entrepreneur hopes to take the experience and open a store within the next few months in Minden.

California’s farmer’s markets have received a positive reception from customers, the media and legislature during the last few years. Sunset Magazine highlighted Davis’ markets as one of its favorites.

And, a new state law that goes into effect in January allows wineries that grow their own grapes to sell wine at farmer’s markets in California, creating a windfall for El Dorado County wineries looking for new ways to market their product.

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