The first article I wrote for the Pleasanton Weekly as a freshy minted journalist was a food-related cover story about the Pleasanton Farmers' Market for the second edition of the newspaper in Feb. 2000. Along with the fresh produce displays, I emphasized the community atmosphere as shoppers greeted friends while others chatted with vendors.
As the new Tri-Valley Foodist, I unleashed a long-delayed desire to explore the Livermore Downtown Farmers' Market. Yes, this was new territory for me. Given the inclement weather, I didn't see any friends but schmoozed with producers, saw kids delight in puddles, and found many goodies.
Fortuitously I parked near Second and K streets and promptly experienced cuisine heaven—an entire block of food booths. The Cal Crab Feed stand was busy grilling crab cakes and selling string bags of oysters. I remembered my Mama bringing home bags of Chesapeake Bay oysters from our Delaware farmers' market.
Wisely, I had skipped breakfast. Many shoppers were happily munching burritos and buns. Since dim sum counts as morning food, I bought vegetarian pan-fried dumplings at Papa's Dumpling booth and downed one. At the Starter Bakery booth, I chose Philly soul food, a big soft pretzel. I spied pancit at Mego Kitchen and made a mental note to buy my favorite Filipino mélange of rice noodles on the way back for lunch.
I was delighted to see the Dan Good Cookies booth that used to sell at the Pleasanton market. Owner Dan Floyd gained fame in June 2020 when he distributed free pride flags at the Livermore market in honor of Pride Month. The market manager at the time forbade this "political" action. A viral video of the confrontation and media coverage followed, and the company operating the market resigned. The following week at the Pleasanton market, I stood in a line with a dozen others to support Floyd and buy his cookies. Since then, Floyd opened a Livermore store and only sells at the Livermore market where he continues to offer free pride flags in June and LGBTQ flags in October.
After buying Floyd's chocolate gluten free cookies, I wandered the block with growers and other artisanal producers. At the market manager's stand, I learned that Foragers Market group took over the contract to run the market for the Livermore Downtown Association in July 2020, shortly after the flag incident. Since then, the market has grown from around 35 vendors to over 70.
Foragers Market operates five farmers' markets including the new Niles Fremont market and the seasonal Thursday Livermore Market. Opening on April 13th, the Thursday Livermore evening market features entertainment and food favorites like Smoke Cellar BBQ and new, local option Wingen Bakery. Harv Singh, founder of Foragers Markets shared their mission, "We curate an experience for shoppers with a variety of diverse vendors to sell local, healthy, seasonal farm and artisanal food products for our customers."
By now I realized that the Livermore market is larger and hosts many more hot food vendors than the two at the Pleasanton market. With different market management in Pleasanton, few vendors overlap which motivates me to frequent both. Adding to the bounty of options are the Danville, San Ramon and Dublin markets.
Shopping at farmers' markets awakens the visual senses and taste buds in unique ways. At Safeway, I'm not normally served by someone in a Russian wolf fur hat like Rashid Savitri's headgear behind the Hummus Heaven counter. His kale and almond hummus looked good and paired well at home with toasted pita chips.
At Gustine Gourmet Mushrooms, I became acquainted with pink mushrooms and learned they tasted like bacon. Though I knew Lion's Mane mushrooms, co-owner and walking fungi encyclopedist Brayan Badali shared their health benefits such as improving immune function. After weighing my purchase, Badali popped in a few extra pinks, a perk uncommon at, say, Whole Foods.
The next booth, Miss Bee Haven Honey, displayed many products. Though popular CBD honey was temporarily out of stock, the owner's daughter, Jasmine Combs, said customers find the honey helpful to transform stinging pain "into more of a bearable buzz."
Jim Hanson of Hanson Family Farms sells a wide variety of locally grown, grass-fed meat and sausages. He doesn't join the Thursday Livermore Market because, he said, "It's more entertainment and snacky things like popcorn and potato chips."
Those elements sounded good to me. When I returned to Mego Kitchen, the pancit was sold out. At Dan Good Cookies, I heard a customer's disappointment that the gluten free were gone, and I offered to sell her mine. She declined. I was happy to have them home until I reached for the last two and discovered my husband had eaten them. Farmers' market tips: Go early and stock up.