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Aug 26, 2005 04:09 PM

Sonoma Farmers Market – Live free-range chickens & ducks

  • r

And they are free … if you can catch them. If you check the bushes there are duck and chicken eggs also.

So many people have recommended the Tuesday night farmers market. At first it was a major disappointment. There are more prepared food and craft vendors than farmers. It is a small market that even in high season doesn’t fill up the driveway in front of the Town Square.

There is a magic there though and it can charm and beckon on a warm mid-summer night. It is somewhat of a town picnic. There is live music and locals carrying picnic baskets and chairs, spread out blankets on the shaded green lawn. Picnics are supplemented with goodies from various vendors.

The baked goods are from Petaluma’s Della Fattoria Bakery. The eggs (not courtesy of the Sonoma Square chickens) are from Aubin Farm of Sonoma.

The vendors seem to be local and mostly organic or on the way to being organic. There are no veggies trucked hundreds of miles. Oak Hill Farms has the largest selection with bags of lettuce and edible flowers. The second largest vendor was Twin Peaks with a dozen unidentified heirloom tomatoes for $2.50 a pound. They had beautiful huge sunburst squash and lovely lemon cukes.

Most of the vendors don’t have names like the vendor with the deep green melons and the ivory tomatoes, some with small pink blushes. There was a strawberry stand and two flower vendors.

The peach vendor said that there was one more week of peaches, two if the weather cooperated. For $1.50 a pound, I had some of the best peaches ever … fragrant, fuzzy and dripping juice, with a flavor that balanced acidity and sweetness. The interior was intensely colored with deep shocking scarlet surrounding the pit.

Arrowsmith farm was one of three honey vendors and also sold the largest squash blossoms I’ve ever seen along with a few herbs like basil. Hector’s Honey was one of the other vendors. Porkey’s was selling some sort of jars of prepared onions.

That was pretty much it produce-wise. It was enough of a selection though for a week’s worth of meals. The prices were low and there was no branding. You had to ask they variety of peach, strawberry or tomato.

Other vendors included a knife sharpener and a few crafts booths. Prepared food included Uncle Bill’s Gourmet corn dogs, Wine Country Chocolates, BBQ Pit ribs, California Pasta Grill, Gold Rush Kettlecorn, and Grammas Pizza. The crepe vendor (Crepevine?) had the longest lines. There were also a few more prepared vendors whose names I forgot since I was lugging a watermelon back to the car. Parking is easy. Spaces surround the square.

As to those chickens. I was rearranging my tomatoes on a shady park bench when I noticed the chickens. I asked the women next to me and she said that people release them on the square. She noted that the population was kept under control and when there were too many some were taken “to a farm’. Sure, just like your old dog went to a farm.

Looking around the web for more info, it turns out that these might be illegal chickens inhabiting the square these days (somehow appropriate in California, eh?). There was a big to-do in 2000 when there was an unprovoked attack on a toddler by a rooster. Feathers flew. Parents called for the chicken banishment from the square. Chicken lovers hinted the two year old was an outsider trying to cause trouble.

Eventually the town decided to ban the birds. As Councilman Ken Brown said after the vote. "But I have to tell you, when it comes to a question between a kid and a chicken, it's the kid." Well, it’s five years later, and the chickens are still on the square.

I wouldn’t call the Sonoma Farmer’s Market a destination, but it is a lovely, lazy way to pass a summer night as long as the chickens behave.


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  1. b
    Bruce Frigard

    Unless you get there early or have good parking karma, expect a walk. Worth doing though.

    1. Was your watermelon a good one? Did you get any new tips on choosing a winner from the salesperson?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gordon Wing

        Good, not great. Better than that loser I bought from Trader Joes.

        Actually I did learn a new watermelon trick today that I haven't tried yet, but it was from the CUESA weekly newsletter.

        Look for dull-ish skin – super-shiny skin means the fruit is immature

        If I stop being lazy, I'll find the watermelon thread and add it.

        1. re: rworange

          thanks for mentioning the dull skin - now that I think of it - that definitely works for honeydew melons, along with a "sticky" feel, shaking for loose seeds/juice, smell,etc... but I always looked for the yellow creamy spot and a good thump with watermelons. Oh, and a clean break from the stem spot....

      2. The chickens are back on the square, but this time they're docile little banty hens and no roosters. It's another story alltogether- we used to have three or four large breed roosters getting macho over territory. This time, the invisible keepers of the chickens are practicing some flock management, and you can let go of your worries about the chickens behaving.

        Oh, and the chickens actually WERE 'taken to a farm'; they were too old to eat anyway.

        1. The Friday Farmers Market is up the street from the girl & the fig, in the parking lot of the Depot Museum and across the street from The Depot Hotel (anyone ever eat there?)

          I like this market better. All the same produce vendors are there, with a fish vendor and a meat vendor. There is only one prepared food stand - The Crepe Garden and they have some tables set up to eat crepes (haven't tried them yet). There wasn't a baked goods vendor.

          Potter Valley was selling grass-fed beef at really good prices. I'm not sure if this is the McFadden Farm located in Potter valley. There was Paul's Smoked Salmon. I bought some, but haven't tried it yet. It is hickory smoked with a little brown sugar and sold frozen.

          One vendor with lovely tomatoes, basil and kumquats was taking donations for New Orleans SPCA. No prices, give a donation, get produce. The kumquats were like anything i've seen before. Instead of long, they were round and bursting with juice.

          This currently has the best parking of any farmers market where you can pull up to each stand to haul off large quantities. I bought two massive watermelons and the vendor(Oak Farm) was even nice enough to carry them to my car.

          That was the big score, Oak Farm had Moon & Stars watermelons (link to description below). If you live in Sonoma, I can't recommend these highly enough. I bought one a few years ago at Ferry Plaza and never found this rare heirloom again.

          Oak Farm said they were difficult to grow. Haven't cut it up yet as was the plan. I also bought the other type of watermelon, AllSweet, and when it was put down on the kitchen counter it announced it was ready to eat with a large crack and split open when rind met counter.

          The AllSweet is a very nice and obviously very ripe watermelon, but I'm looking in anticipation at the attractive Moon and Stars which is big, fat and pregnant with the promise of delivering exceptional flavor. It is just gorgious with its deep green skin and star-like yellow dots.

          I feel melon-empowered since becoming smart enough to ask what variety of watermelon is being sold. I now know how AllSweet fits in to my taste preferences.

          There was a guitar player and a singer at the market. On the warm September morning with the stands bursting with fruits and veggies and the scent of basil in the air, they hit the right note by playing "Summer Time". It was was summer time indeed ... perfectly.