Tuesday, June 9, 2009

South Shore farmers market

By Kathryn Reed

Cherries, peaches and a slew of greens are being harvested on West Slope farms and elsewhere in California for the annual farmers’ market that opened June 2.
With the American Legion not replacing its building this season, it means the fresh fruits and veggies are being sold from the usual spot on Highway50 from 8am to 1pm each Tuesday until Oct. 13.
Even though many farms south of Stockton are fretting over the amount of water being allocated, most of the growers who come to South Lake are not in that bind. Many of the local providers get their water from El Dorado Irrigation District.
“I was a little surprised they are not cutting us back. They watch the water and tell us when to irrigate,” explained Jim Coalwell, who runs the market and owns the Red Shack in Placerville with his wife, Lois.
For years EID has used a gauge about 3-feet deep on farms to measure the water content of the soil. Regulators then dole out water and tell farmers when to irrigate.
Just like last year, an April frost hit the Placerville area crops. Last year pears were hit hard. This year cherries and peaches were affected by the spring freeze.
“It was more severe that we first thought,” Coalwell said in May.
Cherries will still be available, but not in the abundance that was planned. Fewer El Dorado County peaches may make it to market as well. Some pears are expected to have some visible damage from the cold temps.
“They have frost rings, which are rust looking. A lot of them won’t be as good looking, but it won’t have anything to do with flavor,” Coalwell said of the pear crop.
With how frosts settle in, often it’s the trees at the lower elevations on a farm that get hit harder than the ones on top of the hill.
Vegetables were not affected by the spring weather. Farmers who lost tomatoes have replanted, so it means a couple weeks delay before the produce is ready to sell.
As is true each season, what comes to market is based on the growing season. Tomatoes are likely to show up mid-month. Corn will be after that.
Overall, Coalwell said last summer’s market was good despite a slow down. He blames the economy and layoffs for fewer sales. He has high hopes for this season.
“Generally speaking if people look around at these markets, there are good deals,” Coalwell said.
Plus, the product is far superior to any grocery store.
“At least you know where it’s coming from,” Coalwell said. “The main thing is you need to know your grower. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t buy from them.”
Most people shopping in a grocery store don’t realize how far produce is shipped in from. Most countries don’t have the stringent rules about chemicals that California has.
Pete Weed, a local chef, is serving barbecue pork and chicken this year. The crepe people have a new vending vehicle which should be better for them and their clients. Coalwell said other additions may be incorporated, but for the most part the same growers are setting up their tables.

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