Randii MacNear, the executive director and market manager for the Davis Farmers Market, has served in the position for 31 years, with the exception of a four-year break in the early 1980s to raise her children. “The market started in 1976,” Randii said. “We had three sellers on the sidewalk, no tables and the produce was on the ground.”
Today, the Davis Farmers Market gets more applications from farmers and vendors who want to sell their goods than it can accommodate. The market consists of four categories: farmers, processed foods vendors, craftspeople (that are required to have a farmers market theme) and distributors of nonprofit/community information.
Randii says there are 530 Certified Farmers Markets in California, including the one in Davis. “Half of the markets are open year round, like in Davis. The Davis Farmers Market is busy all year, partly due to the fact that in 1994 we opened the covered pavilion,” explained Randii. “With lights, a covered structure and concrete flooring, it’s easier for people to shop in all types of weather.”
Perhaps the unique pavilion structure is one of the factors that recently helped the Davis Farmers Market win the inaugural America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. Run by the American Farmland Trust, the contest received nearly 30,000 votes in support of local farmers markets across the country and featured 857 participating farmers markets. The Davis Farmers Market received 3,060 of these votes (more than 10 percent of the total) and won in the “Large” market category in which it was up against more than 55 other markets nationally.
“The farmers market in Ithaca was ahead of us,” Randii recalled. “Then, literally overnight, UC Davis students got on social media and told their friends to vote and by morning we had an additional 1,000 votes, which put us over the top. Of the 3,060 votes we received, more than 2,400 people wrote in comments of why they love the Davis Farmers Market.”
In a recent interview with Davis Life Magazine, Randii talked about the next era of the Davis Farmers Market. She mentioned specifically the “processed foods” vendors and their movement toward using the farmers’ produce in their jams, breads, ice cream and spreads. “The market isn’t just corn and tomatoes,” she said. “It’s just as delicious in winter with all the greens and beets. We have seasonal produce year round in abundance, and I’m encouraging all our vendors to take advantage of that.”
The Davis Farmers Market has about a dozen processed foods vendors that participate during the week. Below are just a handful of those who represent the new wave of using the markets’ produce in their foods.
David Robert opened the Davis Creamery in 2007 in Davis. After owning a franchise that wasn’t open to using local products, he wanted to start an ice cream shop that incorporated fruits and vegetables grown locally. The Davis Creamery recently joined the Davis Farmers Market and soon began testing new, unique, local flavors.
“I just started walking up and down the market,” David recalled. “I found great, seasonal produce that made fresh, simple, natural ice cream.”
At any given market, customers can enjoy flavors such as almond, avocado coconut, honey vanilla, peach brown sugar and lemon basil. But the flavors are also seasonal, so this fall be on the lookout for pumpkin and apple pie flavors to join the mix. The Davis Creamery is at the market every Wednesday and most Saturdays.