Since I moved to Petaluma, it is not as easy to drive to the Santa Rosa farmers markets anymore. The move has “forced” me to drive less and visit more local markets closer to my house (darn  😉 ) and on the way to and from work and errands, which is actually much better for my wallet and the environment. Earlier this summer, I tried out the Petaluma Wednesday evening farmers market but was rather disappointed when I discovered that it was only half a block long and consisted of mostly artisans and hot-food venders. Don’t get me wrong. I like those types of merchant booths just fine, but when I go to the farmers market, I’m there to buy fresh ingredients. I have visited the much better  Saturday morning Petaluma farmers market but not since last year. Sometimes, I just want to sleep in and not go anywhere on my weekend mornings. Instead this summer, I bought my fruit and vegetables at the evening farmers markets in Cotati on Thursdays and Rohnert Park on Fridays.

The Cotati farmers market is small but surprisingly satisfying. I usually find most everything I need, buying the remaining produce at Oliver’s Market, about five minutes away from the farmers market in La Plaza Park. There’s a nice big lawn and a playground for children to entertain themselves, next to which an inflatable bounce house and slide rental company sets up. (What a great way for them to advertise!) There is also live music played by a featured bands at the gazebo, so you can eat dinner, let your kids go play and listen to the bands while you sit out on the lawn after you get your groceries. The hot food vendors occupy about a third of the booths, produce another third, leaving the remaining booths to arts, crafts, potted plants and the inflatable rentals. I was quite impressed.

I purchased red leaf lettuce, collard greens, chioggia beets, red beets, tomatillos, red Russian kale, patty pan squash, green string beans, purple majesty potatoes, Italian sweet basil and broccoli from a cheerful and helpful woman at the French Garden Farm’s organic produce tent; it really was a one-stop shop. I was glad to see French Garden there, since I was so accustomed to seeing their booth at the downtown Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market. She also had some great looking bunches of carrots, beautiful mixed salads with edible flowers, and various microgreens (sprouts); I may have to buy carrots and sunflower seed sprouts the next time I attend the Cotati farmers market. The farm has a “cloud store” or online store, where you can shop and pay for produce and then either arrange to pick up your order or have it delivered. French Garden also has a restaurant in Sebastopol, where they also set up their own biweekly little farm stand on Sundays and Wednesdays in the parking lot .

Pedro of Ortiz Brothers Farms was really nice and was very generous with all sorts of free samples; I bought two baskets of his delicious strawberries and got a free pint of boysenberries! How awesome is that! In the past, I bought kale, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and other produce from Maria Ortiz, at the “original” Santa Rosa farmers markets at the Veterans’ Memorial Building (before they moved to the Wells Fargo Center) on Wednesdays and Saturdays when I lived in southern Santa Rosa. It is absolutely terrific to see this family farm selling their produce at so many different places; I even read that they drive down to the San Rafael for the Thursday night summer farmers markets. When you do get to visit the Ortiz Brothers booth, I hope you get to see the handmade seasonal wreathes that Maria and her family make year round out of fruit, herbs, oak, bay, branches, leaves, flowers, seed pods and all sorts of neat things.

I’m sorry the last day of the Cotati farmers market was yesterday; it’s only open during the summer on Thursday nights from 4:30 to 7:30 pm between June 7 and September 20, so please visit it next year.  The farmers, artisans and other vendors have all sorts of neat items to look at, like the interesting fantasy and steampunk themed jewelry and hip bags. There are also lots of great small local business to check out in the downtown area. You simply never know what little wonders you might find. For further information, read Michele Anna Jordan’s review in the Press Democrat’s Eat This Now section.