San Diego is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the organic and natural foods movement, since Southern California is an agricultural mecca of citrus, avocado, and nut groves, organic farms, dairy farms, sustainable ranches, and of course, the ocean. Local farmers markets provide venues for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen to give San Diegans and visitors an authentic farm to consumer experience. Here are five of the top farmers markets, certified by the County Agricultural Commissioner, and what you can expect from each.
Ocean Beach Certified Farmers Market
Ocean Beach is San Diego’s last classic bohemian beach town. The tight-knit community hosts its Wednesday evening farmers market on Newport Avenue, the neighborhood’s social and commercial hub. “It’s like a neighborhood gathering every week,” says OB Farmers Market Manager, David Klaman. The market’s laid-back vibe reflects the neighborhood’s personality. Each week features two live musical performances ranging from classic rock to country to beat box.
This is the place for baskets of strawberries, bunches of fresh-cut flowers, and stacks of green and red peppers, chilis, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash. You’ll find bins of half shucked white sweet corn, fat round watermelon, deep purple eggplant, and a plethora of other vegetables, fruits, greens and herbs. They sell home-made grocery products like jams, dressings, and pickled raw garlic. There are artisan goods, an array of aromatic eats, a children’s play area, and of course the beach. It’s a great place to spend a cool weekday evening supporting local farmers and artists.
4900 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA, 619-279-0032
Wednesdays, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
North Park Thursday Market
This certified farmers market is held Thursdays on North Park Way between the popular 30th Street corridor and Utah Street. You’ll find high-end reputable farms you know and love represented here like Suzie’s Farm, Valdivia Farm, and JR Organics, among others. Artisan grocers like GreenFix Organic Smoothie, Baby Clydesdale, and Bitchin’ Sauce sell their grocery products here. Spring Hill Farms is here with organic cheese and butter, The Bread Barn Artisan Bread Company and Da Le Ranch, purveyors of locally-raised meats, are also on hand. This is a serious celebration of natural foods with 80 booths in total.
Local top chefs from restaurants like Waypoint Public and Urban Solace host cooking demonstrations and tastings utilizing fresh ingredients sourced from the market. Community partners have a healthy snack area set up for kids, and offer fun activities that teach nutrition. Live music permeates the festive atmosphere with local entertainers like Barrie Dempsey and Ace Tropic. Rotating selections of artisan gifts are also available. This is the place to be on Thursdays.
3000 North Park Way, San Diego, CA, 619-233-3901
Thursdays, 3:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market
Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market sets the bar for all other farmers markets in San Diego. Everything about Little Italy is done with artistry and flair, so why should the Mercato be any different? You’ll find the widest variety of truly artisan offerings from produce to nuts to wine found anywhere in the county with over 175 vendors and farmers. Not only are well-established California certified farmers and ranchers represented here, but smaller local organic producers like African Sisters vegetables and greens, Mountain Meadow mushrooms, and San Diego Hometown Harvest microgreens and sprouts have a place too. There are almonds from Hopkins almond Growers, macadamia nuts from Fancy Treats, and walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch. You’ll find raw honey from Farmer’s Daughter, farm fresh eggs from Hilliker’s Ranch and fresh-cut blooms from Hidalgo Flower Growers. Little Italy Mercato is also the place for fish of every variety.
Little Italy is one of San Diego’s premier art enclaves, so it isn’t surprising the Mercato includes a long list of unique and high quality artistic products. They offer artisan wood crafts, tablecloths, jewelry, candles, lavender products, recycled art, greeting cards, ornaments, and a wide range of other treasures.
519 W Cedar Street, San Diego, CA, 619-233-3901
Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
La Jolla Open Aire Market
The upscale La Jolla Open Aire Market has an artistic street-fair ambiance and features treasures like eco-chic tree furniture and art objects, original fine art paintings, hand woven rugs, hand-blown glass bottle stoppers, locally made boutique quality clothing, and imported Italian glassware and ceramics. In the midst of the market there is a shaded picnic area, and a kids’ play structure. Open Aire is away from the busy tourist area at La Jolla Elementary School with lots of room to browse.
Morning Star Ranch sells organic produce and bottled green drinks, Belen Artisan Bread offers organic breads, and Mangi Con Amore has organic Italian pasta, sauces, and dessert products. Terra Bella Ranch has black mission figs, walnuts, sun-dried apricots and tomatoes, and almonds; they pick their citrus and avocados on Fridays to bring to Sunday market. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. There are organic olive oils and spices, organic toffees, specialty cookies, and red velvet cake pops along with rows of produce, cheeses, and flowers. Stop by Windansea Beach or La Jolla Cove after the market!
7300 Girard Avenue, San Diego, CA, 858-454-1699
Sundays, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Hillcrest Certified Farmers Market & Open Air Bazaar
Hillcrest Farmers Market is “fresh and fabulous, just like Hillcrest.” It’s the only San Diego farmers market to rival Little Italy’s Mercato in both size and selection, and is reflective of the community’s friendly and inclusive personality. The diverse ethnic restaurant scene is well represented, so don’t bother to eat before you go. Thirsty? How about a watermelon jalapeño lemonade? If you skipped breakfast, grab some coconut pancakes or stuffed cassava breakfast pies. You’ll find boutique clothes, specialty handcrafts, and unique gifts galore. Check out chiropractic, energy work, and massage services. There are skin care products, artisan candles, metal art, African folk art, tee shirts, and more. You can even bring your culinary knives for sharpening.
Hillcrest Farmers Market hosts many of the same farmers you know and trust that you find at the Mercato like Smit Ranch, Valdivia’s Farm, and Suzie’s Farm. Nicolau Farms Goat Cheese, Valley Center Growers, Whole Earth Acre, and Pedro’s Organic Avocado Ranch are also here among many others. On your way out, you can buy an armful of flowers and stop by the craft beer and wine tasting tent. Do Sundays get any better?
3690 Normal Street, San Diego, CA, 619-237-1632
Sundays, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.