Although the farmers market in downtown Los Altos has ended its summer run, lovers of fresh produce rejoice, for there is another farmers market open year-round: the Mountain View (MV) Farmers market. Located in the parking lot of the Caltrain station in Mountain View, the Mountain View Farmers market is open every Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. With a rich background history (it celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sunday, October 19) and a strong customer base (it welcomes about 6,000 visitors every week), the MV Farmers market is comprised of about 160 local vendors selling goods ranging from goat cheese and graham crackers to blackberries and squash. Many of these vendors are second or third generation farmers who love the family business and are simply continuing a time-honored tradition of quality and customer interaction. Below, The Talon looks into some of the most diverse vendors that the MV Farmers market offers.
Rodin Farms (Almonds)
When she was 14 years old, Marie Rodin’s grandfather immigrated from Yugoslavia to start a new life in America. Once here, he met Marie’s grandmother and together, they started Rodin Farms. In its early days, the ranch produced wine grapes and canning peaches, but then discarded wine grapes in favor of almonds. Now in its third generation of the family, Rodin Farms offers an impressive variety of almond butter, raw almonds, smoked almonds and dried peaches, all of which are locally grown and packaged. For Marie Rodin, selling at farmers markets is the most rewarding part of the business.
“You start going to farmers markets and if you miss a market, you can’t take it,” Marie said. “[The atmosphere] is kind of addicting.”
Suncoast Organic Farm and Bakery (Bread)
Suncoast Organic Farm and Bakery is as down-to-earth as it gets when it comes to bread, with all of its grain stone-milled in a 100 year-old barn and baked in a wood-fire oven. Though founder Lisa Jensen and her husband David have only been in the trade for three years, they’ve established a thriving business on their ranch (where customers can drop by on Saturdays and pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread), at the MV farmers market and at Bertuccio’s Market in Hollister. The Suncoast bakery stall offers homemade granola, graham crackers, croissants and 15 varieties of artisan bread, including olive oil, spelt, 100 percent rye, cranberry walnut, cinnamon swirl and jalapeno cheddar.
“I always loved farming,” Lisa said. “I grew up cutting apricots every summer…It’s a slower way of life and you appreciate all the farming and where your food is coming from…That’s what I’m teaching my son, so hopefully he’ll want to take over the ranch after I pass…It’s kind of a family tradition.”
Xiong Produce (Asian vegetables)
Originally from Laos in southeastern Asia, Qu Vang Yang and his wife Mai Xiong Yang identified a niche market for Asian produce when they came to America. Their sons, Lewis and Albert Yang, work alongside them growing, harvesting and selling vegetables such as okra, Japanese eggplants, bitter melon and yams. Xiong Produce has been selling produce at the market for about 15 years and takes pride in tailoring what they grow to meet customer’s needs.
“[I love] interacting with the customers,” Lewis said. “They appreciate [us coming here]. That’s probably the best part, because we have to get up really early in the morning [to get here in time]. That can be a drag sometimes, but the customers are really good people. They make the day a lot better for us as we sell our produce.”
Far West Fungi (Mushrooms)
Far West Fungi, a Garrone family business with about 30 years of history, boasts the distinction of being the only vendor in the whole market to sell fungi, which are also organic to boot. With cardboard boxes of fungi ranging in color and shape, Far West Fungi offers specialty mushrooms such as lion’s mane (which look like small heads of cauliflower) and shiitake (a mushroom prized for its flavor and health benefits).
“We grow just about all the mushrooms we can,” said Loren Garrone, who has helped his parents out with the business since childhood. “We grow about 15 strains of fungi. For example, the maitake, one of the leading medicinal mushrooms, [is] extremely difficult to grow. Whereas something like tree oysters, you can grow them on newspapers or coffee grounds. [Mushrooms] are just like people. Some are a little more tricky than others.”