It’s baaaaack… the Thursday in downtown Livermore that is! The Market actually never left, there’s a small Farmers’ Market every Sunday on 2nd Street.
Our family roots run deep in the bay area farming community, both our mother’s and father’s families ran farms and ranches dating back to the 1800’s. We grew up eating fruits and vegetables that we helped pick fresh from our grandfather’s garden, loads and loads of them. Nothing can beat the taste of a just-picked tomato, green bean or ear of corn. “Papa” (our grandfather Dick Holm) was always a card-holding member of the Farm Bureau and California Cattlemen’s Association, and currently the women-folk in our family belong to the Alameda County CattleWomen’s (previously known as The Cowbelle’s!). Papa died in 1986, and I don’t have the green thumb he does (and between the gophers, deer, bunnies, squirrels and birds in my neighborhood, it’s a battle for vegetable survival!), so the Farmers’ Market is as close as it gets to fresh-picked for me. I also receive a biweekly shipment of organic produce from “Farm Fresh to You,” part of a growing popular alternative, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA involves purchasing organic produce from a local trusted farmer – you know where there food comes from and how it was grown. To my surprise, at my first visit to this year’s market, I discovered that we have our own local CSA program right here in the Tri-Valley, Terra Bella Family Farm.
Terra Bella Family Farm is located on Foothill Road in Pleasanton, is Certified Organic by CCOF, and offers a variety of services to our community: hosting farm tours, teaching organic farming and composting workshops, and selling fresh local organic produce at our local Farmers’ Markets and to our local restaurants. The Seufert family grows an amazing diversity of crops, the usual and the unusual! Terra Bella is home to 2 flocks of heritage breed chickens (Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpingtons and more) that roam the pastures from sunrise to sunset, and lay the eggs for their CSA egg program. But the eggs are so popular that they currently have a waiting list to join! Their CSA package also includes delectable baked goods from Pleasanton’s Bibiane Bakery.
Terra Bella also farms at the Sunol Water Temple AgPark, a thriving urban-edge farm on land that SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Education) leases from SFPUC in Sunol. Local farmers grow food for their families and local markets, share the infrastructure and are trained in organic agriculture practices. The Community Benefit Farming goals are: 1) Establish a working farm to optimize opportunities for multiple tenants to achieve stable, safe, and profitable business enterprises within a culture of cooperation. 2) Develop farming infrastructure, technical support, and management systems that support the operations and viability of the farmer tenants. 3) Develop sustainable farming operations that conserve natural resources, enhance soil fertility, and follow organic farming practices.
Back to our Livermore Farmers' Market, it hosts not only farmers, but Thirsty Thursdays where the local wineries come out with their award-winning libations, and Family First Nights include activities and entertainment for every member of the family. Along with fruits and vegetables you can pick up Brittany’s Crepes (my niece’s favorite booth), Oakdale Cheese, Beckman’s Fresh Bread, Point Reyes Oysters, Casbah Exotic Cuisine (now we can visit the Casbah every day at their new restaurant downtown!), BBQ hot off the grill from The Riata, Olivina Olive Oil, local honey, pieces of local art, and much, much more.
The farmers' market also proudly accepts WIC-FMNP Coupons and EBT (food stamps). You can spend your WIC-FMNP coupons directly with the farmers – very cool, and forward thinking.
Farmers’ Markets are thriving; they represent a place of community, face-to-face shopping with your questions answered directly from the farmer/owner, family-owned businesses (many for several generations), and sustainable produce grown close to home. Seems we may be returning to our roots, maybe the industrial revolution wasn’t so great after all.
It’s definitely worth the trip downtown on a Thursday night or Sunday morning for farm fresh produce. We’ve included a recipe chock full o' vegetables from our Holm Family Cookbook to try out with the fruits (or rather vegetables) of your shopping labor!
Livermore Farmers' Market
A project of the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association
Thursday, 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, May 19 to October 20, 2011
Location: Carnegie Park at 3rd & J Street
Sunday, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Year-round
Location: 2nd Street between J and K Streets
COUNTRY VEGETABLE LASAGNA
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 large onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 large ripe tomatoes (about 21/4 pounds), peeled, and chopped or 3 (16 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup zinfandel
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
4 medium-size zucchini (about 11/4 pounds), sliced about 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces lasagna noodles
Boiling salted water (with a few drops vegetable oil added)
1 pint (about 1 pound) ricotta cheese
3/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup slivered almonds
Sliced black olives, for garnish
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and brown the mushrooms. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, wine, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, basil, oregano, nutmeg, and thyme. Bring the mixture to boiling, lower the heat, and cover; simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
While the vegetables and sauce are cooking, sprinkle the zucchini with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Let stand for 30 minutes; pat dry. Add the zucchini to the sauce.
Cook the lasagna noodles in boiling salted water following the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
To assemble, spread about a third of the tomato sauce in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish; top with a third of the lasagna, then 2/3 cup of the ricotta cheese and 1 cup Monterey Jack. Repeat the layers twice, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and almonds over the top. Bake, uncovered, in the oven for 50 minutes or until the center is heated through and the almonds are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with olives and cut into squares to serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Recipe from Susie Calhoun, The Holm Family Cookbook