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Full disclosure:  I am the daughter of a neighborhood grocer.  I have strong opinions about the importance of buying local produce.  I am in awe of farmers and their stamina, determination, grit, and vision.  They make our world and our lives a better place.  

Is it the Garden of Eden in less than one square block in downtown Santa Barbara, CA?  No matter how many times i visit, I am always overwhelmed by the abundance and varieties of produce for sale at this Saturday Santa Barbara farmer’s market! Season after season, there’s always produce. Each week is just a little different from the week before, which keeps it interesting.  Things are always in a state of change.  If you pay attention, you can almost see the pages of the calendar change before your eyes.  The growing  seasons are long, compared to other parts of the country.  Strawberries year round?! Tomatoes from June ’til December!

I get a strong pulse for every season and its transitions in this place, as one season wanes and another ascends.  Today, there was no question.  It is mid-summer, in all its glory.  Shall we talk peaches?? At the SB Market there are many varieties of peaches.  There’s always samples to help you decide which to bring home.  The freestones arrive in July, but peaches become available in early June continuing straight through early fall.  Peach ice cream, anyone??

It’s Saturday morning.  My senses are on high alert as I approach the market area.  There’s a buzz in the air.  It’s excitement.  pulse quickens too.   The colors.  The shapes!. The scents.  So much!!  I always feel so grateful that this market is in our “backyard.” We do all our produce shopping here.  I can say smugly, it’s all always organic, and the market makes it easy to buy with that as a guiding principle.

Over the years, we have come to know some of the farmers who come to the market.  Just as knowing the artist enriches the relationship between the work of art and the new owner, so too does knowing the farmer enrich the experience of sharing the fruit  of their labors.  I truly cannot imagine having to eat produce only bought in a grocery store.  With the exception of potatoes!  We have opinions about who has the best produce; i.e. who to buy lettuce from, etc.

My husband shops almost entirely for produce.  I like to bring home flowers.  Lots of them.  I always buy some daylilies.  They are long lasting and give a lot of bang for the buck.  They pack a punch in a bouquet.  Quite honestly, I’m tired of sunflowers. They’re showboats.  They don’t do anything but say, “Look at me. ”  I quickly tire of that, be it in people, or flowers!  I did go through a phase of honest sunflower affection, when we first moved here.    But it ended with a thud.  No residual longing.  Today we had an early glimpse of the jewel tones of fall with celosia and cockscomb making a bright appearance.  They’re such intriguing flowers, reminding me of brain coral from tropical waters.



bouquet of dahlias


The Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market is one of this city’s best ongoing events.  I state that unequivocally.

6 Markets | 6 Days a Week

“A brief location history of The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market begins on March 24th in 1979 at the Old Mission. The Farmer, Robert Dautch, recalls these days at the market as being quiet, “One or two customers, one or two farmers.” UCSB agricultural enthusiasts would harvest fresh veggies and fruit, load up their bicycle carts and ride to market, selling right off of their bikes.

By April 2nd the market shifted to the Santa Barbara County Bowl where the SBCFMA had its first run in with the County Health Department. By May, the farmers had a health permit and a second market was approved for the Santa Barbara Bowl location. In August markets moved to the Santa Barbara High School. It was at the high school location that long time members, Don Vincent of Vincent Farms and Miguel Ingiuez, of Ebby’s Organics, joined our ranks.  At this time the markets began alternating locations: first Saturdays would be at Santa Barbara High School and third Saturdays at Goleta High School.  It wasn’t until 1982 the market found its’ long-standing and current location on the corner of Santa Barbara St and Cota St. in downtown Santa Barbara. It’s now Forty-nine years later and the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market has six local locations and 130 plus members.”

I always enjoy taking out of town guests to the market just to see how envious they become.  I’m always surprised that there are people who live in this city who never set foot in the market. Their loss.  The farmers work so hard to provide us with the food for life.   They deserve to be supported as much as possible.

Below is a glimpse of the bounty I saw on Saturday:

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.