AG Watch

Valley growers hit the road for Farmers Markets

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Farmers Markets are a big hit in the Bay Area and in Southern California. But if you think those markets are stocked with produce from those regions, think again. Those markets have become reason to hit the road for Valley growers.

California is home to one out of every ten Farmers Markets in the country. 729 locations, that's more than any other state. And it's no secret Central Valley farmers grow many of those fruits and vegetables. But the farm-fresh produce we may take for granted here in the Valley, is a prized commodity in other parts of the state.

Farmers Markets as far away as San Francisco and Orange County have become the financial bread and butter of many local growers.

There's no such thing as summer break for Tory and Rebecca Torosian of Tory Farms.

Rebecca Torosian: "It's hard growing tree ripe. Because we're not picking it early and storing it for weeks on end, we're picking it ripe."

Tory Torosian: "Right now we're picking almost every day because it's so hot."

During the peak months of May through August, the Dinuba stone fruit farmers are working six days a week. Picking, packing, and driving it to San Francisco's famed Ferry Building every Thursday and Saturday.

Rebecca Torosian: "Slept for maybe two hours, got up this morning."

Tory Torosian: "Something we never thought we'd be doing, but it saved us. Keeps us going."

Because customers at the Farmers Market can't seem to get enough of their peaches and nectarines.

Alison Fong: "Maybe my son was maybe a year old. And he just fell in love with the fruit. And we've been coming to see tory and Rebecca the last six, seven years."

Triple Delight Blueberries, located just a few stands down took a similar journey here. Starting in a field off Highway 41 south of Fresno, each sweet berry, hand picked, ripe from the bush.

Kim Sorensen: "People that don't live here in the Central Valley. They love the fact that we are bringing fresh fruit, straight from the field, to their, to them."

So much so, shoppers are willing to pay a premium.

Kim Sorensen: "The price of the wholesale market really isn't what we would hope it would be. We meant for it to just be a fun thing we were gonna do, but it truly has become one of our main sources of income."

For the Central Valley's small family farms selling directly to urban areas where the demand outweighs the supply, makes it worth the cost of gas, room and board, and fees for a spot to sell so far from home.

The Sorensen family spends eight to ten weeks every summer at Farmers Markets all over Central and Northern California.

David Stockdale heads up Cuesa, the non-profit that runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. He says sustainable agriculture is their mission.

David Stockdale: "It makes it more viable for the farmers and provides a steady flow of world class products to consumer who appreciate them and demand them."

Including some of the world's best chefs at San Francisco's prestigious Quince restaurant, Chef De Cuisine Tim Caspare is a regular at the Farmers Markets.

Tim Caspare: "Go to the markets, pick up your products, then in a perfect scenario, you're able to develop a dish that's inspired by those ingredients."

The New York transplant says he's amazed at the Central Valley's bounty.

Tim Caspare: "I think everything tastes so much more intense because of the varieties that you see, you don't see, you don't see them on the commercial market."

The delectable dishes often bear the farms' names, creating awareness among diners, of the farmers who brought it to them.

This is Sunny Cal from Reedley at the Dana Point Farmers Market in Orange County. And Ken's Top Notch Produce of Reedley is a regular in South Pasadena. The farmers see themselves as the Central Valley's ambassadors.

Rebecca Torosian: "That's a number one reach for me. If I can get the kids hungry for that sweet fruit, their parents are gonna buy that."

Creating a new generation of consumers who appreciate California produce as some of the best in the world.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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