Juicy freshly picked fruits and vegetables and all natural breads and cookies aren’t luxuries available only for farmers or professional bakers — a wide selection of the freshest local produce and homemade goodies can be purchased weekly at the Cerritos Certified Farmers Market located at the Cerritos Towne Center in the northwest parking lot of the .
Rain or shine, roughly 40 farmers and vendors set up booths every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon offering a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and eggs, as well as seafood, kettle corn, honey and tasty baked goods.
“The fruit and vegetables taste so much better than they do at the supermarket,” says regular shopper Carmen Hill. “It’s a tantalizing taste … and once you taste what fresh fruits and vegetables taste like, it’s hard to taste what’s in the supermarkets.”
As a part of the Harbor Area Certified Farmers Market (HACFM), the produce at the Cerritos Certified Farmer's Market is picked only from Californian farms. The produce maintains its freshness and taste because they are transported from shorter distances, making them less processed and available at better prices.
“[The produce] is direct from the grower, so there’s a lot of cost saving,” said the market manager of the Harbor Area Certified Farmers Market, Dale Whitney. “The product doesn’t go through too many hands. It’s direct marketing, and you usually get a better deal because they don’t need to ship it to you.”
Bright red strawberries and plump blueberries and blackberries can be bought at the Santiago Farms booth, where the berries sold are picked daily at the farm. Smith Farms, which has been selling at the market since its opening in 2001, offers a mix of organic and conventional produce including cauliflower, artichokes and broccoli.
“The produce is a lot fresher and it allows customers to pick what they like,” said Paula Smith, mother of farmer McKay Smith of Smith Farms. “They can also get out and get fresh air and shop!”
Farmers such as Benito Dilag sells specialties such as cultured chicken and quail eggs, as well as “balut eggs,” which are duck embryos that make a popular Filipino delicacy.
All natural dates and honey are also available from family-owned farms.
In addition to the farmed vegetables and fruits, non-agricultural booths offer roasted corn, hot dogs, tamales and Mediterranean breads and spreads. Old Town Bakery sells daily baked savory and sweet breads, and Peanut Dudes offers a variety of salted, sweetened or flavored nuts.
Homemade all natural cookies with flavors such as coconut chocolate chip with almond and oatmeal raisin with pecans are available at the Kifani Creations booth.
“There’s no preservatives and no additives, so [customers] are getting quality first of all,” said Rosemary Noel, a vendor and good friend of the owner of the Kifani Creations cookie business. “At supermarkets, chemicals are added to all these foods and it’s not healthy for a lot of kids … and that’s one main reason why we’re offering this to the public.”
Fresh cut flowers, orchids and succulents are among the many plants also available for purchase.
In an effort to go green, the farmers at the Cerritos Certified Farmers Market halted the use of white plastic bags in May 2009 and encourage customers to bring their own shopping bags weekly.
Along with being an eco-friendly habit, making a weekly trip to the farmers market can also be a unique social and learning experience.
“It’s fun to shop outdoors, talk to neighbors, and build friendships with vendors and farmers,” adds Whitney. “It’s also nice to know where your food is coming from.”
Summer fruits such as cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums will be available starting in May. For more information on seasonal produce and a full list of farmers and vendors, visit http://www.goodveg.org/CERR.html.