The heart of Davis

Regular winner of best in the nation, the Davis Farmers Market embodies bountiful

After 35 years, the Davis Farmers Market is often considered the country’s best.

After 35 years, the Davis Farmers Market is often considered the country’s best.


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Do you hanker for kettle corn, animals to pet, an old-fashioned carousel and balloons? You don’t have to wait for the county fair to roll around—you can find all that and local, organic produce to boot at the year-round Davis Farmers Market.

“It’s like going to a country fair every single week,” said Randii MacNear, the market manager.

The Davis Farmers Market began 35 years ago as one of the first in the state. They’ve gone on to be industry leaders not only in California, but nationwide, as the farmers market movement has continued to gain popularity.

The Davis market is notable for its city-built covered structure, allowing them to operate through the rainy season.

The main market runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Davis Central Park, at Fourth and C streets. It includes primarily local, organic producers of fruit, vegetables, nuts, wine, olive oil, meat, plant starts, flowers, eggs, juice, jam and more. Nonfood vendors sell everything from yarn to pottery and jewelry to clothing. Two entertainment venues provide music throughout the day. At the south end of the market, prepared-food sellers serve breakfast and lunch items. Vendors there include the Davis Hotdogger, Kathmandu Kitchen, Montoya’s Tamales and Fat Face—well known for its unique popsicle flavors and sandwich offerings.

In addition to the main market, the adjacent park has two playground areas, an open lawn and the California Bicycle Museum. A charmingly unique bicycle-powered wooden carousel benefits a different school group each week for only $1 a ride. A balloon clown supplies endless inflated butterflies and swords.

“We are fortunate to be in a park setting that allows people to play with their kids,” says MacNear. “It renews people, nourishes them and gives them hope. The marketplace has always been where the community has come together and everyone mixed and reunited in their effort to make life better.”

The idealism of the local politics extends to the market, with tables set up for causes, special events like the Tour de Cluck bicycle crawl, and adoptable cats and dogs from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Theme days at the market include Pig Day in the spring and the Fall Festival. Pig Day celebrates all things pork, with piglets for petting, edible pig pops and the Three Little Pigs and Wolf on hand. Fall Festival always occurs the last Saturday in October. There is a harvest theme, and the Davis Farm to School program provides educational booths. You’ll also find a petting zoo, scarecrows and pie by the slice.

In addition to the Saturday market, the Farmers Market Association runs a Wednesday market and a seasonal East Quad market on the campus of UC Davis. The Wednesday market runs from 2 to 6 p.m., November to March, then changes into “Picnic in the Park” for the rest of the year. From 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., the market features live entertainment and an international collection of prepared foods to eat on site.

The East Quad market is only held during the fall and spring semesters, but provides easy access for students to procure local produce. It runs on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The Association has also partnered with Sutter Davis Hospital to begin a small farmers market at the hospital (2000 Sutter Place), and they are helping to open a new market in West Sacramento. That one begins May 19 and will be held near the new library on Merkley Avenue.

In honor of the 35th year of the Davis Farmers Market, they will be holding a screening of the documentary Farmer’s Market: The Heart of Davis. A market cookbook by local authors Georgeanne Brennan and Ann Evans is expected to be released in 2012.