Started in 1979 by a group of local farmers selling fresh produce out of the back of their trucks in a vacant lot, the Arcata Farmer’s Market is the longest running farmers market in the state of California. Now the Humboldt Grower’s Association boasts over 100 members and puts on markets five days a week in nine different places, but the Saturday morning market (9am – 2pm) in Arcata is its crown jewel.
Completely taking over the plaza of this university town in Humboldt County, known for its majestic old-growth redwood forests, rugged coastline and high-quality marijuana, the Arcata Farmer’s Market is just as much a weekly festival and community gathering as a showcase of the plentiful bounty of this gorgeous region of the world. Local bands jam out in the center of the plaza surrounded by a dozen or so prepared food vendors, while families, hula hoopers and college kids frolic in the grass. Completely circling the plaza, farm stands hawk the best of Northern California’s seasonal fare—everything from Humboldt Bay oysters and local cheeses to heirloom apples, melons, peppers and tomatoes.
This is the kind of farmer’s market you can easily while away the better part of the day in, even if you are not under the influence of some medical grade OG Kush. I like to get there as early as possible grab a coffee and a Guac N Lox from Los Bagels and then slowly make my rounds until my belly and bike bag are full of edible treasures. Then it’s time to grab a patch of greenery and enjoy the people watching and the music…
Ocean Malandra is a freelance writer who divides his time between Northern California and South America. His chai spiced cherry buckwheat cannabis banana bread will have you walking on sunshine even on the foggiest Humboldt days.
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Cherry bomb peppers are full of flavor and pretty darn hot as well, rating about the same as jalepeños on the Scoville scale. Earthen Hands Farm, a Humboldt institution for 28 years, grows over 90 different kinds of peppers, including ghost peppers and hot Bhutans.
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Hip Joint, a jazz/funk fusion band, takes center stage and keeps a fairly large group of market goers shaking their rumps in the sunshine. The Arcata Farmer's Market features a different local band every week. Check out the current line up here.
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Warren Creek Farms specializes in heirloom varieties of everything from onions and potatoes to winter squash and dry beans. Their brightly colored cauliflower heads are always a hit.
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At River Bees Ranch, honey infused with lavender flowers tingles the tongue when tasted. Other varieties of "Humboldt Gold" include sage, apple and wildflower honey.
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Over 27 varieties of garlic from all over the world are grown by Flying Blue Farm and Nursery. They also raise quail for eggs and specialize in native medicinal plants.
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Hula hoops are always a part of the Arcata Farmers Market. Bring your own or grab a community hoop from the rack and do your thing.
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Close to 70 percent of California's oysters are raised in the Humboldt Bay, and the area has several annual festivals that celebrate this delicious aquatic creature, including the Arcata Oyster Festival in June.
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At New Moon Organics in the southern Humboldt town of Shively, bi-color sweet corn is the specialty, although the runner cannellini beans also get rave reviews. Two of the farmers here also play in the local rock band Blackplate.
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Started in 1991, Feildbrook Valley Apple Farms now grows over 50 different varieties of America's iconic fruit, the apple. Crisp and flavorful, the Lustre Elster is a personal favorite.
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Free range spreadable goat cheeses are made at Cannibal Island Creamery, located in the picturesque town of Loleta. Humboldt County is fast becoming as well known as southern counties like Sonoma and Napa for its awesome wines and cheeses.