New Sunrise

A taste of suburbia’s latest farmers’ market location

Strawberries are in season, but not locally; they’re trucked in from SoCal.

Strawberries are in season, but not locally; they’re trucked in from SoCal.

Two crops in abundance at the Sunrise Boulevard farmers’ market on the last Saturday morning in March: strawberries and asparagus. The strawberries were trucked in from farms in Southern California—from such counties as Imperial, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara—because locally grown berries are nowhere near red and bursting with sweetness. The asparagus had arrived from closer to home: The green spring delicacy may be the pride of San Joaquin County but, as someone who was raised in Stockton and force-fed this notorious urine-aroma enhancer from early childhood, I don’t care if I ever see or taste another malodorous sprig as long as I live.

But plenty of people just adore that vile vegetable, and now it’s coming into season—with fava beans and zucchini soon to follow, before the full cornucopia of local produce begins coming to harvest later in the spring.

It may be worth a trip to this suburban open-air market, staged on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of the Sunrise light-rail station, on the east side of Sunrise Boulevard south of Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova.

According to Renae Best, who with husband Dan has been a general manager of Certified Farmers Markets of Sacramento since 1981, the Sunrise market opened in its current location the first weekend in March, after its previous location, on the backside of the Sunrise Mall parking lot, became unsustainable for the farmers, due to increased fees after the mall’s management changed.

“We’re a farmers’ cooperative,” Best said. “We’d have to charge the farmers more money, and we’d rather they used that money for food production.”

The new location, however, makes it possible to hop on light rail from Midtown, ride out, leisurely shop for an hour, then ride back—all within the window of a two-hour ticket. For someone who can’t make the grandaddy of local markets on Sunday morning, under the freeway at Eighth and W streets, or with plans to feed people on Saturday night, the Sunrise market may provide a pretty swell option.

I didn’t count the number of vendors, but I’d guess it was in the range of 40 stalls, set up facing a midway of trees in planters in the asphalt parking lot.

“I really like the trees here,” Best said. “We didn’t have them at that mall location.”

On this perfect spring morning, the crowd—decidedly suburban and fit, dressed in the kind of sportswear favored by well-educated state workers enjoying a day off—wasn’t a cacophony of bustle like the Sunday market downtown; one could navigate the light throng easily, zipping in and out of stalls to examine the produce and exchange cash for food.

The makeup of vendors was similar, or nearly identical, to the Sunday Central Farmers’ Market, with the nascent Sacramento growing season accounting for the relative absence of Capay Valley farmers, although there were a number of local growers on hand.

The Bariani Olive Oil guy was there, along with such Linden (eastern San Joaquin County) farms as Lagorio and Barbagelata, both of which offered a number of crops: potatoes, onions, carrots, greens, assorted fruit. Several Asian farmers sold various greens, daikon and bok choy. Citrus fruits and apples were available, along with more exotic dates and kiwis; and various nuts, local honey, cheeses, wines and even organic beef could be found.

And if you’d rather grow it yourself, some vendors were selling tomato, zucchini, basil, peppers and assorted herbs in plantable form, along with fresh flowers, both cut and potted.