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Where to Shop: Santa Monica
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.
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.
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.
19. Weiser 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.
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.
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.
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.
30. Yasutomi Farms
The greenhouses at Jake Yasutomi’s Pico Rivera operation produce top Japanese eggplant and cucumbers well into winter.
33. Windrose Farm
A colorful cascade of potatoes tumbles from the Paso Robles outfit (see page 140).
34. Schaner Family Farms
The eggs—pheasant, quail, turkey, duck, and emu, among others—get the attention, but San Diego County’s Peter Schaner is also a top supplier of onions, particularly the temperamental cippolini.
35. Life’s a Choke
Move quickly: The distinctive purple-tipped baby Fiesole chokes and asparagus from this Los Osos farm take a breather every Thanksgiving and don’t reappear until January.
36. Maggie’s Farm
Second-generation farmer Nate Pietso grew up at the market, helping his parents bushel herbs and fill orders of organic greens and edible flowers for fine-dining restaurants. His mother started out growing produce for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Now you can pick up the family’s signature “stellar mix” of spring lettuces fresh from their Agoura Hills farm.
37. Coastal Farms
When they aren’t selling their top-of-the-line tomatoes, Paul, Mark, and Maryann Carpenter purvey exotic sprouting broccoli and eight types of lettuce from their Santa Paula fields.
38. Coleman Family Farms
The multigenerational Carpinteria operation is a legendary grower of greens (see sidebar).
39. Ojai Olive Oil
Former petroleum executive Ron Asquith spared no expense in bringing Europe’s top varietals to his Ojai ranch, where he produces some of California’s finest olive oil.
40. Fat Uncle Farms
The irresistible butters and marzipan are concocted by Nate and Bekki Siemens using almonds from her folks’ Bakersfield-area orchards.
41. Moessner Farms
The strudels and puff pastries that emerge from the ovens of this Tehachapi venture have ardent fans, as do the sauerkraut and mustard pickles.
Graphic by Triboro Design; Illustration by Chris Lyons