Dining

For the freshest produce, buy from local San Diego farmers

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There’s nothing quite like the experience of spending a hot summer day at the beach, returning home and replenishing your nutrients by biting into a perfectly ripe strawberry or orange.  Having a grapefruit for breakfast is a very healthy way to start the day.  And who can forget some of the biggest customs of summertime season, eating sliced watermelon or grilling up some corn-on-the-cob on a warm summer evening.

There’s no question, health consciousness has become quite the trend in San Diego, and it starts with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  And there’s no better way to guarantee getting the freshest and best grown produce into your kitchen than by purchasing from local San Diego Farmers.

According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau website, the San Diego farming community consists of more than 6,000 farmers who work to make agriculture more than a $1.5 billion local industry.

Buying local has more than a few benefits for both the consumer as well as the community.  Local produce is picked at the height of ripeness and gets transferred to local markets within a day or two so it’s extremely fresh.  As that food doesn’t have far to travel, energy costs of both transportation and storage can be kept at a minimum so buying local has some environmental benefits.  And supporting local family farms keeps money in the community as those local farms will turn around and invest that money back into other local merchants.

So, where can you buy local produce?  Major retailers such as Vons and Ralphs don’t normally carry locally grown products but lucky for you, San Diego offers a plethora of farmer’s markets, farm stands and community supported agriculture programs to meet your needs and make sure you get the best quality produce in your pantry.

With over 50 certified farmer’s markets in the San Diego area, there literally isn’t a single community that doesn’t offer residents a chance to get their hands on some fresh fruits and veggies at least once a week.  Some farmer’s markets such as ones in Ocean Beach every Wednesday or Pacific Beach every Tuesday offer live music while customers browse for fresh produce, flowers and art or grab something to eat from local vendors.   Usually a couple of street blocks that are roped off, farmers markets can also offer other products such as fresh meats, hummis, salsa, guacamole or other types of sauces that are made from local products by people in the local area.  And markets have been the center of community activities pretty much since the dawn of civilization, so if you just want to hang out, talk with other locals and find out what’s new in your neck of the woods, farmer’s markets can be a great place to do that as well.  Here’s a list of all the farmer’s markets in San Diego and the days on which they take place.  Specific times and locations of the markets can be found online.

Monday

Escondido – Welk Village, Chula Vista/Swiss Park

Tuesday

Coronado, Escondido, Mira Mesa, Otay Ranch, Pacific Beach, Spring Valley, UCSD/La Jolla

Wednesday

Bonita, Carlsbad, Ocean Beach, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Tu Mercado (USD)

Thursday

Chula Vista, Horton Square, Linda Vista, North Park, Oceanside CFM, Oceanside Sunset, UTC

Friday

Borrego Springs, Fallbrook, Imperial Beach, Kearney Mesa, La Mesa, Mission Hills, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Southeast San Diego

Saturday

Carlsbad, City Heights, Del Mar, Flower Hill Del Mar, Golden Hill, Little Italy, Pacific Beach, Poway, Ramona, Scripps Ranch, Vista

Sunday

North San Diego, Gaslamp District, Hillcrest, Julian, La Jolla, Leucadia/Encinitas, Mt. Carmel, Point Loma, Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach

If you don’t feel like parking your car and taking the time to walk through a farmers market or you would rather just pull in quickly and pick up something specific, farm stands offer a great option and, again, San Diego offers plenty to choose from.  Mostly found in coastal north county, inland north county and east county, there are about 25 certified local farm stands that offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers for quick pick-ups on the way home from the office.  Most farm stands tend to offer specific products and therefore may only be open during certain seasons depending on what types of produce they offer.  Again, specific locations can be found online.

Another great alternative to picking up goods from local farmer’s markets or farm stands is taking part in community supported agriculture, otherwise known as “subscription farms.”  Consumers can buy a subscription from a farmer for a set price and receive fresh produce, usually delivered to a specific pick-up location, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  By having your produce delivered to you, you can save on gas and time while still continuing to support local farmers.  There are over 10 local farms that take part in such programs and operate year round to deliver an assortment of naturally grown goods including fruits, veggies and meats either right to your door or somewhere close in your community.  This is also a great option for anyone who owns a restaurant and buys their goods in bulk, and being able to display the fact that your establishment uses all locally grown products is sure to be a customer pleaser.

If you can’t find a local farmers market or farm stand and you don’t have a subscription to a local farm but you still like the idea of supporting local agriculture, fear not because some local grocery stores such as Henry’s and the OB Peoples Market are dedicated to their local farmers and carry a wide range of natural, locally grown products at reasonable prices.

Henry’s originally started as a corner produce market in San Diego back in 1943 and has grown to the point of having a chain of stores all across California.  They continue to offer locally grown products including fruits, vegetables and an assortment of meats at very cheap costs and almost all of their products are extremely fresh as they get produce deliveries on a daily basis.

Peoples Market in Ocean Beach is much the same concept only, unfortunately, without the chain of stores.  As San Diego’s only community-owned grocery store, consumers pay a small membership fee to shop at Peoples but then “own” a part of the establishment and can submit suggestions for products, prices and general improvements that can be made to their store, guaranteeing that Peoples serves the community in the best ways possible.  Peoples offers a wide variety of organic produce, dairy, bulk foods and herbs as well as a full service sit-down deli that offers a selection of home-style vegetarian and vegan entrees.  Peoples can be found on the corner of Voltaire St. and Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in the heart of Ocean Beach.

photos courtesy jpopesku1, roarofthefour and Richard Masoner via flickr

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