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What Are the Best Farmers’ Markets in California?

It’s peak produce season in California, as the state’s 700-some farmers’ markets abound with fresh strawberries, sweet cherries and heirloom tomatoes.

My colleague Shawn Hubler wrote earlier this month about how farmers’ markets in the Golden State were all but wiped out in the 1950s by agriculture regulations — and how advocacy eventually brought them back.

You’ve since been sharing stories of your favorite markets, which, from your emails, seem to serve as town squares and picturesque hangouts as much as places to buy ingredients for your next meal. I guess it’s only to be expected that, living in America’s produce capital, we would find community and beauty among the fruits and veggies.

Here’s a sampling of thoughts:

“Farmers’ markets served as a lifeline for our family during the height of quarantine. We would set out from the East Bay on a Saturday and head over to the Larkspur market to make something of a day of the outing. Based on the available ingredients, I would match a recipe to the day and we would take them home from there, but not before completing a three-bridge tour of the Bay Area. That weekly meal kept us connected in a time of isolation. And the ciders helped as well.” — Rob Seitelman, Walnut Creek

“On Sundays, there’s a farmers’ market at the Long Beach Marina. I challenge you to find a more blissful setting — rows and rows of gorgeous fruit, greens, vegetables and flowers, the smell of fresh tamales, the strain of bluegrass, all with the beautiful fresh sea breeze coming off the marina and the sight of the boats bobbing at their moorings.” — Mary Alice McLoughlin, Lakewood

“The Mountain View Farmers’ Market is a slice of California — multicultural, multiethnic, year-round, with an easygoing vibe. It’s a feast for the eyes with all the colorful fruit and veggie displays, as well as a feast for the nose with the scent of basil, peaches, bread and fresh garlic. It’s a social gathering spot where friends and families meet and vendors greet customers like old friends. Held in a CalTrain parking lot in the heart of Silicon Valley, of course the vendors take Apple Pay and Venmo.” — Mara J. Wildfeuer, Mountain View

“The first, founded in 1943 and settling into its current location four years later, the Alemany Market has provided a stable food supply for generations of San Franciscans. The diversity and affordability of this market — sometimes referred to as the people’s market — sets it apart. My family grew up knowing the carrot and mushroom ladies, my children toting paper sacks plucking small samplings for their own consumption. This market is beyond the produce, it is about the people who provide Californians the freshest and most prime produce anywhere. Their humanity is in every bite.” — Tracy Wymer, San Francisco

“The most wonderful farmers’ market I have ever experienced in the world (and I have traveled widely) is the weekly Saturday market held on the Plaza in Arcata. Run by the North Coast Growers’ Association, it is a delightful mash-up of 100 percent organic fruit, vegetable, bread, and fresh flower sellers, food carts, artisan craft sellers, and live music and impromptu performances on the grassy parts of the square by local area jugglers and hula-hoopers.

Going to the Arcata Farmers’ Market is a lovely opportunity to meet interesting people, try out a hula hoop, eat a delicious breakfast or lunch, and stock up for the week on incredibly beautiful local produce. I haven’t lived anywhere close to Arcata since I graduated from high school in the 1980s, and I still occasionally run into old friends and former teachers at the market when I visit town.” — Julie Landweber, Princeton, New Jersey

A streamlined version of the viral baked feta pasta recipe.

Today’s tip comes from Jamie Matter:

“As one who was born elsewhere, I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1983. I’ve visited many parts of the state, ranging from the Mexican border to the Oregon border as well as borders with Nevada and Arizona. There are still many on my yet-to-be-seen list. My favorite places to visit? Mostly ones that I would never tell anyone else about. But here’s one I’ll reveal — it’s always a joy, when having vacationed inland during the summer, to come out of the Central Valley heat and get back under the cool gray blanket of fog that wraps San Francisco on most summer days.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tiara Abraham is 16, an age when most students haven’t finished high school.

Abraham, however, just graduated from college. She received her diploma from U.C. Davis at the university’s graduation over the weekend. Something of a musical prodigy, Abraham also performed the national anthem at the ceremony, KCRA reports.

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