by Brian Wall
One of the beauties of living in California is the rich bounty our soil produces. California generates over 350 crops, several of which are grown only in California! So how is it that we convince ourselves to settle for the quality of produce typical of a grocery store?
I spent my high school and college summers in the local agriculture workforce, and must say one of the greatest perks was the access to fresh fruit. I have yet to find a peach in a grocery store that comes even close to a freshly picked peach from the field. Fortunately there are fruit stands galore that let us buy direct from the farmer (keep an eye on the upcoming iPhone app to make this even easier!). And how about those local strawberries!
Another option is to scout out your local farmer’s market (typically run during the summer months). I’ve personally seen farmer’s markets promoted in Reedley, Dinuba, Clovis, and Fresno, and would bet money many of the other surrounding cities have their own farmer’s markets as well. However, no farmer’s market holds a candle to the one in San Luis Obispo.
Having spent three years as a Cal Poly student, I became very familiar with the local farmer’s market. It is religiously held every non-rainy non-Thanksgiving Thursday night from 6-9 p.m. and spans five crowded blocks. This is a produce aficionado’s playground, with a sampling of local and not-so-local California-grown nutritious goodies. However, it is so much more than a farmer’s market, with live music, local businesses promoting their products, outdoor barbeques, 15-minute massages, student organizations, and the occasional apocalyptic messenger with a wooden sign navigating the crowds. Parking is a bit of an issue, so be prepared to walk! And pet lovers will need to leave their little loved ones at home, as a city ordinance prohibits pets from attending.
One of my personal favorites as a student was stopping by the Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ outdoor grill for dinner then walking the market with friends. Another great choice for dinner is Firestone Grill (nearly identical to Dog House Grill in Fresno). Take in some music at the main stage or venture off to some of the surrounding streets to see what else San Luis Obispo has to offer. Stop by Bubblegum Alley for a disturbing display of chewy art, step into Linnaeus Cafe for a relaxing cup of coffee, or explore the other unique shops that make San Luis Obispo the wonderful little town it is.
Take a quaint little college town like San Luis Obispo and add a spectacular farmer’s market that’s been drawing crowds and vendors for years, and you have an evening that’s guaranteed to be a blast! It may not be the most cost-effective approach to stocking the vegetable drawer in your fridge each week, but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable!