Farmers market snapshot: Bay Area bounty in October

October is Eat Local Challenge month, and we should have made a big deal about it before. However, we have all been pretty swamped — the road to blogging hell is paved with good post intentions. And truth is, all of us treat every month as an eat-local challenge, and mistakenly or not, we kind of assume regular readers of the Ethicurean do, too. Buying mostly, if not entirely, from farmers and ranchers within our foodshed seems second nature at this point. Or do I have that wrong?

(A humble note of apology: This post is NOT meant as a “nyah nyah” to the rest of you folks who do not live in states quite as agriculturally blessed as California. Please don’t hate us. Remember we pay insanely high prices for such privilege and we’ll probably all get wiped off the face of the earth in an earthquake any minute.)

Still, going to the Berkeley farmers market yesterday reminded me that I belong to the luckiest damn group of eaters in America. It was my first visit to the Saturday market in more than a month — I was away for two weeks, and then just somehow too stressed, depressed, and/or busy. While kind friends, my husband, and my sister have done some shopping for me, lately my diet has relied on grilled-cheese-and-chutney sandwiches and tinned sardines to an embarrassing extent. It was so nice to stroll through the hordes in the crisp fall air, towing my little Hook ‘n’ Go (please don’t harass me about the couple of plastic bags you see, I do my best OK?), saying hello to people I know, and gathering up all the late-summer bounty you see above.

I purchased: tomatoes (including some organic but “cosmetically challenged” ones for $1/lb), apples, plums, pluots, 3 pints strawberries, butternut squash, green beans, peppers, scallions, onions, red and purple potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, and assorted greens (kale, bok choi, purslane, 3 heads of lettuce), and a pound of dates. On the prepared foods side, I picked up local butter and cowsmilk cheddar, raw goat feta and a new kefir product from my favorite goat dairy, apple cider, pancetta (Fatted Calf was out of bacon, boo), two packages of egg fettucine, and two loaves of whole wheat bread, one of them made with local flour from Full Belly. (By the way — and this may be the equivalent of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs — but I only recently discovered that if you store freshly baked bread in a paper bag inside a tightly closed plastic bag in the fridge, it stays soft and sliceable for a week or more. I thus no longer buy “sandwich” bread.) Now, some of the above did come from more than 100 miles away, but…man, I love those dates. Nature’s crack.

Total cost: $125. Augmented with meat I have in the freezer from the local farm for which I work about 20 hours a month on the barter system, plus the canned salmon, tuna, and sardines I either buy from local sources or order from Vital Choice Wild Seafood, this should be enough to make most of my husband’s and my meals for about 7-10 days. And my satisfaction level afterward? Priceless.

9 Responsesto “Farmers market snapshot: Bay Area bounty in October”

  1. Greg Massa says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    What, no organic brown rice???  :)  At 126 miles from Berkeley, I guess we are a few miles outside your 100 mile radius, but you can get a lot of meals out of one $4 bag of rice!  As far as I know, we are the only rice farmers who do farmers markets, but I’d appreciate hearing if there are others outside of California.

    Love the blog…keep it up!


  2. Bonnie P. says:

    LOL Greg….I saw Massa’s was having a sale, 2 bags for $7, and I meant to get it on my way out (as you can see I was pretty weighed down) but I forgot! Your brown rice is all we eat here at Chez B&B, in fact, we often eat it for breakfast. My husband makes a mean <i>nasi goreng</i>. Fortunately I still have some on hand. :-)

  3. susan says:

    I am new to the buying local, and we are fortunate to live in a state that has a lot of agriculture also.  This was my first trip to your blog…thanks for the info and I will be coming back more often!

  4. andy abraham says:

    There is nothing better than using fresh ingredients…without perservatives… many members of our group …… only cook organic…Nice to see others that think they way we do…

  5. Local farmers markets are the best. I wish more grocery store supported local farmers and setup farmers market sections in the stores. Nothing compares to all natural fresh grown fruits and vegatables. Nice post.

  6. Waaaaaaa! I left Berkeley, a Full Belly Farm CSA subscription and my job at the SF Ferry Building to move to a Midwest Ecovillage in rural northeastern Missouri. The heartland is in a sad state - it weren’t for what we grow ourselves, we’d rarely see fresh organic veggies (what we grow is pretty fantastic, however). Looking at your photos and reading the text makes me ache for home, and the food. But I am determined to bring the same “wealth” of good eatin’ back to the farmland. They’re making a great start up in Iowa, and the effects are trickling down with a vengence! Thanks for your caveat about the prices and earthquakes – it ALMOST makes it better!

  7. Eric Reuter says:


    Welcome to Missouri. Come visit the Columbia Farmers Market sometime, where at peak of season we have nearly 80 vendors, many of whom are sustainable/no-spray and several are fully certfied for vegetables, eggs, and pork. There’s also a certified organic independant dairy in northern Missouri (Green Hills Harvest). I don’t mean this as a trolling sales pitch, just a note that while Missouri may not be California, we’re working on it and there’s more than may meet the eye. My own farm expects to be certified organic in time for spring markets. Come visit us some time; we’re two years in and working on growing larger.

    Eric Reuter
    Chert Hollow Farm
    Boone County, MO

  8. Sage says:

    I am interested to know if you were able to make this trip to the market last for 7-10 days? As someone who deals with the affordability of high quality food, both in life and in writing, I would love to know specifically how you put this food to use. $125 is about our whole weekly budget, and to be fair when I think of the cost of food used each week I don’t necessarily count food we already have on hand. But looking at what you have purchased I’m not sure if I could make it last over a week for my households entire food needs- maybe dinners, maybe.
    I wonder if you might share how this food was used, and what you used out of your pantry to supplement. This is in no way a “gotcha” comment; eating locally for regular people is an ongoing learning process. I am just wondering if you have some kitchen wisdom to share on this or if this trip to the market does raise one of the biggest barriers to local eating- cost. Believe me I think there are ways around this, and this is not an excuse to eat corporate conventional food or being unaware of of the true cost issue, but I think its good to be open and honest about what we ask people to do when we ask them to eat local- it is ultimately about spending more money on food and how families can (or can’t) make that work.
    Looking forward to your thoughts…

  9. Bonnie P. says:

    Hi Sage:

    Good and completely valid question. I was not. As usual, I cooked less than I hoped and we ate out more than I planned, thanks to a parental visit and social invitations that couldn’t be declined. We are actually still eating on some of the proceeds from that particular shopping trip — the whole wheat bread, pasta, potatoes, and several other things are still waiting to be finished.

    I will admit something: I have always been profligate with my food spending and unapologetic about it. I hate shopping in general and happily wear secondhand clothes, buy secondhand books, bike (and drive an 11-year-old car), go without cable, and use a 3-year-old computer (which just died). I figured if I scrimped on everything else I could splurge on food. Well, with the economy the way it is, and my husband and I both being self-employed, it looks like we are going to have to start scrimping on food too. I can’t afford $125 at the market at the week AND eating out AND the occasional orgasmic romp through Bi-Rite Market’s cheese section or the Cheeseboard.

    So I’ll be honest: I have never learned to eat on a budget and so far I suck at it. I will be reading blogs like yours and our own Jennifer aka Baklava Queen’s for inspiration.