Almanac

Cover Story - May 29, 2013

What's to eat?

Answers abound at the new farmers' market in downtown Woodside

by Dave Boyce

As usual in this season, spring is busting out all over, and in Woodside, there's a new venue for farm-grown products: the Sunday afternoon farmers' market at the elementary school. There are organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, fish, vegetables grown in cooperation with fish. It's a cornucopia.

The farmers' market in the school parking lot at 3195 Woodside Road is nearly two months old. Patrons of the Wednesday afternoon Skylonda market will recognize faces and layout. Like Skylonda, the downtown market is small — eight to 10 vendors — in two rows, and it's under the same management: Maggie Foard, the founder of goat's milk chocolate vendor Kidding Around With Chocolate in La Honda and author of the cookbook "Goat Cheese."

Ms. Foard's website lists 24 vendors so there are changes from week to week. Among the vendors there on Mother's Day, May 12, were Farmageddon, Ouroboros Farms and Leftcoast Grassfed Beef, all from Pescadero; One Ocean Seafood from Belmont; Nut n' Bean hummus and nut butters from Hayward; and North Bay Curds & Whey, a cheese maker from near Bodega Bay.

More vendors than there is room for is something of a necessity, Ms. Foard said in an email. "Using small artisan vendors means that they only have so much manpower and so much product." Chicken and pork from Early Bird Ranch comes only on the first Sunday of the month. "It's a huge amount of work to produce and sell a quality product like theirs," she said. "I look forward to something special from them. When you have to wait for perfection, you can really appreciate the work that's gone in and it seems to taste even better!"

Flour Chylde Bakery was there on Mother's Day. The Novato bakery offered gluten-free cakes, muffins and bars and distributed its samples on compostable paper — because San Mateo County allows it, owner and baker Catherine Bragg told the Almanac. In Contra Costa County, according to the county's Environmental Health website, vendors must put samples "in approved, clean covered containers," which means plastic cups with plastic lids, Ms. Bragg said.

"Regardless of the end process of such materials, it is an unnecessary waste of money as well as natural resources," Ms. Bragg said. "Our process, which is approved by most other counties, requires less packaging for an important experience." So Flour Chylde avoids Contra Costa County.

Flour Chylde also distributes unsold goods to the homeless — and composts its stale goods, an unusual step for commercial bakers, Ms. Bragg said. "We believe no food should go into trash cans," Ms. Bragg said. "I believe in everything we purchase, we (must) ask: 'Is this recyclable? Is this compostable?'" Zero waste is the goal, she said. "If we can either recycle or compost all materials, ingredients or food we make ... we have made the world a better place."

Ouroboros Farms tries to close the waste loop with aquaculture. The lettuce, bok choy and other greens grow in water also inhabited by fish, or "assistant farmers," as its website calls them. The system is mostly self-sustaining in that the plant roots extract nutrients from the waste in the water produced by the fish, "creating a perfectly synergistic cycle." The fish eat lettuce trimmings, worms and insect larvae, and the system is topped off occasionally to replace water lost to evaporation and absorption by plants, the website says.

Water buffaloes make milk, and North Bay Curds & Whey makes cheese out of that milk and brings it to Woodside every other week, cheese-maker Alissa Shethar told the Almanac. The milk is 10 percent fat and 9 percent lactose. "It's very good for cheese-making," Ms. Shethar said. The water buffaloes' ancestry passes through Florida to Jamaica, she said.

The future could include "impromptu" events such as cookbook author signings and food pairings, Ms. Foard said. A small mushroom farm is coming in June, she said.

Go to tinyurl.com/WSFM-123 for more information on the farmers' markets in Woodside.

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