Every Sunday, Palo Alto’s popular California Avenue transforms into a crowded street with vendors selling a wide range of products, in addition to a vast variety of prepared foods. The farmers’ market, spanning over three blocks, houses various booths that contain hidden treasures, including, but not limited to honey, yogurt, flowers, peaches and bread.
Saint Benoît Creamery
Saint Benoît Creamery provides customers with fresh milk and dairy products, and puts an emphasis on sustainability and the environment.
Its products are transported from Petaluma by hand each Sunday and are fresh from the farm. As the products do not have preservatives, they must be sold and consumed as quickly as possible. All products are vat pasteurized as well as non-homogenized.These standards limit the processing of the dairy, ensuring it is fresh and has most of its beneficial bacteria still present.
According to Alexa Kahan, an employee at Saint Benoît Creamery, its products are sold both at farmers’ markets and local stores, including Molly Stones, Country Sun and certain Whole Foods locations. The most popular product is its organic yogurt.
The company values its ability to get the product directly from its farm into the hands of customers, which cuts its carbon footprint and benefits the health of the environment.
“I drive up to the farm and I get the stuff that I’m going to sell at the market,” Kahan said. “So there was no airplane involved in getting the stuff. That’s huge on CO2 emissions and cost and fossil fuel digging in wherever…It also cuts out the middle man of a truck driver driving to a warehouse and then putting it in a Safeway.”
Saint Benoît also appreciates the intimate experience that it is able to have with customers by selling at the farmers’ market.
“If you see something in the store… you can’t taste it,” Kahan said. “Here you just taste it, and you can ask questions. You can be educated while you’re shopping.”
Small Bees is a locally owned and operated honey store. It supplies all honey products, ranging from beeswax candles to lip balm to the honey itself. The honey is harvested and processed in Saratoga, then brought to various farmers’ markets during the week across the Bay Area.
Small Bees has participated in the Palo Alto market for two years. However, the bee farm itself has been in operation for longer, according to farmers’ market representative Dane Hansen. In the past few years it has branched out to new markets and to several local stores.
The most popular product is the classic honey; but the beeswax candles are more popular in the winter season.
Hansen enjoys selling at the farmers’ markets because of the interaction with people.
“[The market’s atmosphere is] pretty joyful,” Hansen said.
Kashiwase Farms has deep roots in the Bay Area. Owner Steve Kashiwase’s grandfather opened the farm in 1921 after he moved from San Francisco. Today, the farm is located in Winton, Calif. and spans 190 acres. Kashiwase Farms produces fresh organic stone fruit as well as nuts. Buyers can find almost any variety of peach, plum and nectarine at Kashiwase, including unique combinations like pluots and nectaplums. The farm is divided equally between fruit trees and nut trees.
Kashiwase has a dedication to fresh fruit, ensuring the picking process delivers a high quality product to his customers.
“We pick it ripe off the tree, rather than pick it [and] then ripen it, because you get the full flavor that way,” Kashiwase said in an interview with Nana Joe’s Granola. “It just costs us more per pound to grow it that way and harvest that way.”
Kashiwase Farms is a farmers’ market veteran, operating at 35 markets throughout the week all over the Bay Area.
“We sell only at farmers’ markets, so we have to get a lot of markets [in] that time because it’s ripe,” Kashiwase said in the interview. “[We‘ve] got to get it moving.”
Kashiwase has sold his fruit and nuts at farmers’ markets for the past 30 years. In that time, he has noticed an expansion in the markets.
“You see a lot more people who are concerned about what they’re eating and so the number of people coming to farmers’ markets has increased during that time,” Kashiwase said in the interview. “Before there used to be, like, maybe 20 markets in the Bay Area, back in the ‘80s, maybe only 10. But now I don’t know how many there are, probably 100 or more.”
Manresa Bread Project
Many locals recognize the name Manresa from the high-end Michelin starred restaurant located in Los Gatos which shares the name. However, in the past two years, the Manresa brand has expanded into farmers’ markets with its hearty breads and tasty pastries.
Manresa Bread Project participates in just two farmers’ markets, one in Palo Alto and one in Campbell, with the Palo Alto location premiering this March. According to Palo Alto Online, the organizers of the Urban Village, a network of farmers’ markets, encouraged Manresa to begin selling the bread from its Los Gatos restaurant.
All of the Manresa products are baked in Los Gatos and range from potato gruyere focaccia to chocolate orange brioche. According to Andrew Burnham, a partner in the Manresa Bread Project, the most popular items are the pumpernickel rye bread and the sourdough levain.
Manresa is dedicated to quality and the use of healthy ingredients in their products.
“Most of our ingredients are at the very least organic, if not biodynamic,” Burnham said.
Burnham hopes to expand into new markets in the coming years. He enjoys selling at farmers’ markets because of the unique shopping atmosphere.
“I think we like sort of the ethos of the farmers’ markets in California,” Burnham said. “Our type of marketplace is more in line than selling through a Safeway…There’s also captive demand…which is great — a bunch of people showing up at once.”