A Handful of Deliciousness on the Coastside

Coastside Farmers Market

Photo courtesy of Erin Tormey

On the first week of May, Erin Tormey will open the 11th season of the Coastside Farmers Markets in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. I look forward to this event because I know that I will experience an ever-growing selection of organic farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, flowers, fish, specialty foods, local art, health and skincare products, services and information, live music — and samples of the delicious food!

“The Coastside communities are geographically distinct and separated from the bay side of the county,” says Tormey, “and Pacifica has no real town square or obvious gathering place. The Coastside Farmers Markets have become that place in both communities. Unlike so many farmers markets in the Bay Area, where farmers come from all over the state, people at our markets are dealing with their neighbors — Coastside farmers, ranchers and fishermen who live, work and raise their families here. The residents’ livelihood and quality of life are directly linked to the livelihood and quality of life of the farmers from whom they are buying their food. It makes for a very tight, closed-loop economy, and that is significant.”

Here are some of the 20+ Coastside-based farms, ranches and food creators, with coastal businesses between Pacifica and Pescadero, that will participate this season:

• Alpacas by the Sea

• Ben’s Coastside Farms

• Cabrillo Farms

• Café Di Mi Abuelo

• Coastside Flower Farm

• Daylight Farms

• Del Sur

• Dirty Girl Garden Apothecary

• Early Bird Ranch

• Farm Fatales

• Fly Girl Farm

• Gaia Essentials

• Giusti Farms

• Golden Coast Bee Collective

• Greenhearts Family Farm

• Green Oaks Creek

• Harley Farm

• The HEAL Project Student Farm

• Irish Ridge Ranch

• Markegard Family Grass-Fed

• Poppy’s Crab Shack

• Triple J of Pacifica

The Coastside Farmers Markets have partnered with two organizations — Puente, Pescadero’s human services agency, and Roots of Change, an organization that works to develop and support a collaborative network of leaders and institutions in California with an interest in establishing a sustainable food system by the year 2030 — to become a pilot site for MarketMatch, a nationwide effort to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the many low-income seniors and young families dealing with food scarcity. They leveraged that relationship into support from the San Mateo County Health Department, so now clients can enroll in the CalFresh Program right at the market sites in Half Moon Bay, Pescadero and Pacifica. CalFresh — formerly known as Food Stamps and federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — helps to improve the health and well-being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs with monthly electronic benefits, which can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores.

Each season, the Coastside Farmers Markets also host blood drives, prescription drug drop-offs and composting workshops, and support dozens of community-based nonprofits in promoting their services and programs. Local farmers donate hundreds of pounds of gorgeous (but unsold) produce to the local emergency food pantries every market day through arrangements with the Pacifica Resource Center and the Catholic Worker House.

For three years, the Coastside Farmers Markets have created a mini farmers market for the attendees of Seniors on the Move, the largest gathering of seniors in the Bay Area, hosted by U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Attendees meet the farmers and receive a selection of produce from the market. The Coastside Farmers Markets received a Resolution of Excellence from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, congratulating them on a decade of exemplary service to the agricultural community and economy of the county — the only farmers markets to ever receive this honor.

“That was wonderful, but the greatest honor is having the trust of these communities to do this work for all of these years. It’s exciting when movie stars and Congresswoman Speier come to the markets, but when I see a family visit for the first time or a little kid eat his first handful of raw peas, that’s the stuff right there!” says Tormey.

Where and When: May through November

PACIFICA: 200 Rockaway Beach Ave. (Rockaway Beach Shopping Center), every Wednesday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.

HALF MOON BAY: Shoreline Station, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

© 2013 Joanne Shwed

Originally written for CoastViews magazine