1. Shear Rock Farms
Hollywood-born Sabrina Bohn is a relative newcomer to the market, growing anything that strikes her fancy on her 19 acres in Santa Paula. That means we might see tomatoes—her passion—but also fragrant French melons and humongous bright orange Moroccan squash sold in hunks.
2. Theodore Payne Foundation
Landscape your yard with native plants from the local nonprofit dedicated to preserving California’s indigenous flora. Sagebrush, agave, and drought-resistant grasses come in pots ready for planting.
3. Suncoast Farms
Pale, purple, speckled, or striped, the sun-dried beans from Lompoc’s Suncoast Farms add major flair to hearty fall and winter soups. Substitute Suncoast’s dried garbanzos for the canned version in your next batch of hummus, or cook up some black-eyed peas for a happy and fiber-filled new year.
4. Fair Hills Farms
Like the rocker dudes manning the stall, Fair Hills’ organic apples, including the beloved Honeycrisp and Braeburn, are that perfect mix of sweet and sour. Nancy and David Rydell have planted more than ten varieties of apples on their 88 acres in Paso Robles. In summer look for impeccable stone fruits.
5. Tenerelli Orchards
Take heart, all you peach aficionados who went into mourning following the freak frost that hit this Antelope Valley farm last spring. John Tenerelli expects a crop of Autumn Ladys to grace his stand, along with stellar Fujis.
6. HayGround Organic Gardening
Ever consider owning the means of production? Jimmy Williams and son Logan sell uncommon fruit trees (Malaysian guava, Hawaiian papaya) and heirloom vegetable seedlings (Goose Creek tomatoes) propagated at their Silver Lake nursery.
7. J.J.’s Lone Daughter Ranch
The “lone daughter” is Laura Ramirez, who specializes in citrus on her Redlands farm (see sidebar).
8. Beylik Family Farms
Hydroponically grown tomatoes and cucumbers mean you can make gazpacho year-round. The box of oh-so-slightly imperfect tomatoes (though we can barely tell) are a serious steal, especially if you’re using them for cooking or canning.
9. McGrath Family Farm
Phil McGrath’s uncle used to ride his horse on what is now the 101 freeway, which runs alongside the century-old McGrath family farm in Camarillo. Phil grows special orders for top chefs: gem lettuces, dainty haricots verts, Chioggia beets, and gorgeous baby corn. We can score the same signature organic produce along with Kabocha squash, berries, and more. Just 55 miles away, the McGrath land boasts a market and a farm center that are open to the public.
10. Mud Creek Ranch
If you’re wondering about the lumpy thing that looks like a lemon, Steve Smith has the answer. He and his wife, Robin, love introducing folks to obscure citrus such as yuzu (the lumpy thing), sudachi, finger limes, and rare grapefruit. In November they also carry Bacon and Zutano avocados and walnuts.
11. Honey Pacifica
The Poto family’s hives, maintained throughout the Greater Seal Beach area, are the source for its array of natural honey products. The stock ranges from creamy wildflower- and mango-flavored varieties to pure royal jelly and fat hunks of honeycombs.
12. Pedro’s Avocado Ranch
The banner says AVOCADOS at this Fallbrook farm, and indeed you’ll find bins of organic Hass avocados. But it’s Pedro’s tropical fruits that bring in curious shoppers. Experience the bubble gum-like flavor of the green cherimoya, native to South America, and the kiwilike flesh of the fuchsia-hued dragon fruit.
13. Rocky Canyon Farms
Greg Nauta raises organic, grass-fed beef and pork on his sustainable farm in Atascadero. Primo cuts and sausages get sold at the markets, where they find their way to adventurous home chefs.
14. Tutti Frutti Farms
Tomato season arrived late this year, so you still may be able to find some of the Cadwell family’s heirlooms, such as Cherokee Purple and the gargantuan Brandywine. The Carpinteria farm, owned by the Cadwells since 1850, produces plenty of hard winter squashes, greens, and root vegetables, too.
15. Pudwill Farms
Raspberry and blackberry bushes flourish in the temperate coastal community of Nipomo, and protective tenting keeps the Pudwill Farms stand deep in luscious berries throughout the fall.
16. Peacock Family Farms
Freshly harvested walnuts are standouts. So are the Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons from this Dinuba- and Nipomo-based purveyor, which also sells seedless grapes and raisins.
17. Harry’s Berries
Kids ask for them by name. Honest, we’ve heard them. The dainty Seascape and burlier Gaviota strawberries grown by the late Harry Iwamoto’s family in Oxnard are worlds sweeter (and better for you) than a handful of Skittles. Berry season is over now, but Harry’s also grows tomatoes and fat Blue Lake beans.
18. The KenDor Farm
Chefs prize KenDor’s free-range organic whole chickens (also sold in parts) and eggs that are marvelously rich and flavorful. Want to start your own brood? If you order ahead, the family-owned operation will bring eggs for hatching.
Family Farms In autumn this mecca for melons becomes a whirl of color, with its green Romanesco cauliflower and carrots of the red and white and purple varieties. The butternut squash also cultivated at this Central Valley operation, which was founded by former Garfield High teacher Sid Weiser, looks dull in comparison.
20. ABC Rhubarb Farms
The signs identifying the lemon verbena and the rosemary are hand drawn in colored ink and bedazzled. Lily Baltazar and her daughters will gladly fill you in on which leaves best repel flies and which stalks make the most soothing herbal teas. Mushrooms are occasionally available, but they usually sell out at Saturday’s Pasadena market.
21. Jimenez Family Farm
Marcie Jimenez was a horse gal from Santa Monica Canyon before she began sustainably raising rabbits, pigs, and grass-fed goats and sheep. If you’ve only picked up protein, dinosaur kale, or Blenheim apricots from her stand in Santa Monica, you’re missing out on Marcie’s namesake fruit pies, which are available at the Hollywood market.
22. K&K Farms
The fruit stand got some buzz a few years ago with the debut of its unusual Yolo Red walnuts and the rare Granny Annie apple hybrid.
23. Carlsbad Aquafarm
If you’re eating an oyster in L.A., most likely it originated at this sustainable “shellfish farm.” John Davis and Norm Abell raise a slew of such oyster varieties as Carlsbad Luna and Carlsbad Blonde off the coast north of San Diego, in addition to mussels and other ocean critters. Order a dozen to go, or slug a couple of shucked-on-the-spot Lunas for a decadent market snack.
24. Rancho La Viña
We affectionately refer to the dark, heady walnut oil that’s sold here as “vegetable crack.” Discover why by drizzling some on green beans, pea shoots, and broccoli at home. Depending on the harvest, batches vary somewhat in color and depth of flavor. Be sure to store the bottle in the fridge after it’s opened.
25. Soledad Goats
You can’t walk through most L.A. farmers’ markets without being offered a schmear of chèvre from these Mojave goat herders. A fuzzy hoofed newborn is a frequent presence in the arms of Julian Pearce at the Hollywood market and attracts as much of a crowd as the lavender- and lemon-flavored cheeses.
26. South Central Farmers Cooperative
You may be more familiar with this nonprofit group for its political battle over land rights than for its organic produce. (The co-op was the subject of the 2008 documentary The Garden.) Now located near Bakersfield, the collective of onetime urban farmers grows kale, broccoli, and melons. Funds generated from farmers’ markets and the co-op’s Community Supported Agriculture program help bring fresh fruits and vegetables to L.A.’s impoverished areas.
27. Jaime Farms
Jose Luis Jaime Sr. immigrated to America as a farmhand and eventually earned enough money to cultivate his own acreage. Today Jaime Farms runs four operations in Southern California, which explains the incredible selection of sustainably grown produce: cauliflower, dandelion greens, guava, brussels sprouts—you name it.
28. Flora Bella Farm
The Sierra Nevada snowmelt irrigates the fields of James Birch’s Flora Bella Farm in the small town of Three Rivers. His organic arugula, cauliflower, stone fruits, fennel, cabbage, and root vegetables are a favorite of culinary heavyweights like Suzanne Goin, Nancy Silverton, and Evan Kleiman.
29. Finley Farms
The modest Santa Ynez-area farm run by Christopher and Johanna Finley brings in superb sugarsnap peas and strawberries in season as well as winter squash, pumpkins, even loofahs.
30. Yasutomi Farms
The greenhouses at Jake Yasutomi’s Pico Rivera operation produce top Japanese eggplant and cucumbers well into winter.
31. Sea Fever Seafood
Most mornings, angler John Wilson and his trusty golden retriever, Roxy, head out on their boat, Sea Fever, to catch wild fish and haul in pots of rock crab and spiny lobsters off the coast of Santa Barbara. His stand is probably the market’s biggest draw: It’s the only spot at any farmers’ market where you can buy a fresh fillet of sea bass cut to order or a bag of still squirming crustaceans—for dinner or as pets, should you lose your nerve.
32. LA Funghi
Dirk Hermann won’t tell you where he forages for some of his more lusted-after forest mushroom varieties. His bounty looks like a science experiment from Mars, with vibrant lobster mushrooms, honeycomb-textured morel caps, and funky chanterelles. His mixed bags are the best deal and perfect for a rich risotto or a distinctive mushroom soup.
Graphic by Triboro Design; Illustration by Chris Lyons