THE FARMERS’ MARKET IS SANTA FE’S FOREMOST GATHERING SPOT
There’s no place I enjoy hanging out more on Saturday mornings than the bustling Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the Railyard. Between the vendors and the shoppers, the downtown market attracts a kaleidoscopic cross-section of everyone in our urban and rural communities. You see neighbors, long-lost friends, and brand-new acquaintances engaged in conversation over rows of produce, all surrounded by lilting music, and the arrivals and departures of the Railrunner and Sky Railroad trains. Tuesdays at the market are almost as lively and get started for the season next week.
The market spills out of a pavilion by the tracks on Paseo de Peralta near Guadalupe. The building allows the market to run year-round, but it blossoms fully as the weather warms. More than 100 vendors will be selling their produce and other locally grown or produced goods by the height of the season. While the market brings fresh food and fun to our community, it promotes small farms and sustainable agriculture throughout Northern New Mexico.
You will find no pineapples here. Unlike many so-called farmers’ markets in the US, ours assures that all products — vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, nursery plants — sold by its vendors, are locally raised by the same smiling folks who sell them. Even the crafts and processed items — baked goods, salsas, vinegars, herbal tinctures, and soaps — have to be made of at least 70 percent local ingredients.
Those high standards have helped make this market one of the most respected in the country. It’s also one of the older markets, having started in the mid-1970s in a west side parking lot. There were only a handful of vendors back then. It was open just the few weeks when zucchini and green chile were overflowing gardens and fields. It’s been a delight to watch the market mature, find a permanent home, and see farm kids grow up to take over booths from parents and grandparents.
You find the market at its most vibrant when the high summer crops, that afore-mentioned zucchini and green chile, are supplemented by sweet corn, tomatoes, melons, berries, stone fruits, and so much more. Those will be here before long.
Right now, though, you can find loads of spring green things — lettuces, chard, kale, and asparagus. Nursery plants are at their best over the next month. Strawberries and rhubarb will show up soon. There’s still a wealth of dried items from last season’s harvest — toasty Floriani cornmeal from the Fresquez family’s Monte Vista Organic Farm, charming sage-and-floral animals from Gonzalez Farm, or the Trujillo family’s multi-colored posole. You can also choose among luscious lamb, beef, and other meat, cheese, eggs, flowers, French breakfast radishes and tiny turnips, fermented foods like pickles and kimchi, and bread and other great bakery items.
Have you seen the construction in the back end of the market hall? Big things are afoot with the market’s petite Café Fresh. Currently tucked into a back corner, the café is getting a larger, more prominent spot, with garage doors to roll open during warm weather. The menu will be expanding, with salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, and other items emphasizing area ingredients. The taste-testing of the new dishes is underway right now. The Taos Cow ice cream and broad menu of Aroma coffee drinks, made with organic locally roasted beans, will continue. Instead of only having hours during market mornings, the café will be open six days a week. That will help accommodate the growing number of workers and visitors in the Railyard neighborhood. Expect the opening in June of 2022.
MARKET GIFT SHOP
The market’s gift shop carries the most delightful array of merchandise, some local, some from around the world. From Albuquerque, the Kei and Molly natural cotton dishtowels, with colorful silk-screened local images, are one of my go-to “hostess” gifts. New Mexican Irene Newlon’s patchwork aprons have become another of my favorites. Check out the handsome cutting boards from Joshua Ortega, too. The shop carries a variety of cookbooks by local authors, as well as books on food-related topics, such as market farmer Stan Crawford’s Mayordomo and Garlic Testament. Much of the shop’s merchandise can be purchased online now, as well.
A recently added agricultural subscription service lets you acquire a weekly bag of the best market produce and other goodies for a season. It couldn’t be easier. You pay in advance, then simply drive through the market pavilion’s alley each Wednesday afternoon and have the bag handed off to you. A couple of days ahead of the bag pick-up, you get an email telling you about the contents, along with recipes and ideas for how to use what will be coming your way. The bags offer six to nine items of produce, but can be supplemented with eggs, bread, or other market items.
DOUBLE UP ON SNAP
This isn’t a new market project but is one important to mention. Everyone in our community deserves access to local foods. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as Food Stamps, helps the 14 percent of Santa Feans who live below the poverty line and are classified as food insecure. The market oversees the Double Up Food Bucks program, which matches the face value of SNAP credits. When a recipient qualifies for $25 in credits, for example, the market doubles the amount, to make it worth $50. Not only does this help the shopper stretch their family’s food dollars, but also puts more money into the pockets of the market farmers. It’s a great service.
I’ll be at the market next week, and just about every other market day. I hope to see you there.
WHERE’S THE Santa Fe Farmers’ MARKET?
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market
Saturdays and, starting May 3, Tuesdays, both 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
1607 Paseo de Peralta near Guadalupe
Del Sur Southside Market
Starting July 5, Tuesday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Presbyterian Medical Center
4801 Beckner Rd.
Story and photos by Cheryl Alters Jamison
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.