Family Farms

editor@sierrastar.comJune 25, 2013 

The Oakhurst Farmers Market has grown in size and quality by leaps and bounds from the first market two years ago.

Held 4-7 p.m. every Thursday at True Value Homecenter at 40596 Westlake Drive, this year's market features more than 30 vendors showcasing a variety of quality products.

"Like many other communities across the country, Mountain Area residents want locally grown, fresh produce, home prepared foods and had-crafted products," Theresa Bryant of True Value said. "People appreciate knowing where their food comes from and buying local is one of the best ways to follow that trend. Shopping at the market is a fun way to see your neighbors and pick-up healthy food at the same time."

Shelia Smith manages the market that features farm fresh vegetables, stone fruit, berries, flowers, eggs, honey, artisan goods and more.

Thanks to the California Homemade Food Act that went into effect Jan. 1, homemade food products are more available than ever before. The act allows individuals who own and run home-based businesses, called Cottage Food Operations, to sell directly to the public at farmers markets and other similar events.

Family farms and small family businesses are well represented at the market including:

Wildflower Cottage Bakery — Juliet Thrapp — North Fork: Born and raised in North Fork, Thrapp bakes classic breads, rolls, cakes and pies. Her rolls include organic wheat berry and cheddar-rosemary and two bread loaves available last week were buttermilk and cracked wheat.

She also makes a large variety of jellies and jams including manzanita, blueberry, strawberry and orange marmalade. Her more unique jams are Mojito, made with lime, mint and rum; strawberry daiquiri, made with fresh strawberries, pineapple, lime and rum; and whiskey peach.

"Everything is made in my home and I try to use as many local ingredients as I can including olive oil, honey and all the berries," Thrapp said. "Everything is baked fresh and most importantly, with all the love this mountain woman has."

Highland Downs Cottage Garden Farm — Brian and Celia Allman — Ahwahnee: Organically grown produce, plums, apricots, bread loaves including banana with peanuts and rhubarb, plants and fresh eggs from the farm's 300 chickens. Fifteen berry and rhubarb mini-pies sold out last week in the first hour.

The family farm was established six years ago with chickens are fresh eggs and has slowly grown, adding two-acres of vegetables and apple, pear, cherry, mulberry and apricot trees.

The farm sells more than 100 dozens eggs a week.

"We have six breeds of free-roaming chickens and they all lay different colored eggs including brown, green, blue and white," Celia said. "None of them taste like commercial eggs because of what they are feed."

Celia said the goal is to create an all organic botanical garden farm that is both pretty to visit and productive.

"I grow everything that I make the jams and bake with," Celia said. "It's a cool thing to participate in the farmers market and to be able to bring my products directly to the public."

The farm, at 44792 Road 628 off Highway 49, is open to the public Fridays (noon - 7 p.m.) and Saturdays (10 a.m. - 7 p.m.).

The Vinegar Lady — Judy Nadelman and Kathy Larson — Ahwahnee: Fruit vinegars, relishes and low sugar jams including grape, peach, fig, plum, blueberry-pomegranate, and her signature hot pepper jam, made with a variety of peppers and a secret ingredient that "people love."

Nadelman has been making vinegar for more than 50 years — since she was a child in the Bay Area.

The vinegars made from fermented hand-picked fruit include strawberry, apricot, Meyers lemon, elderberry, fig and hot pepper.

"The vinegars are not strained, so you have pieces of fruit in the vinegar," Nadelman said. "Vinegar, just like wine, can be judged by the bouquet and all my vinegars have been aged with love and care."

Kern Family Farm — Hansel and Sue Kern and their children Becky and Aaron — North Fork: The family has been farming for 12 years and offer a wide variety of seasonal row crops including heirloom vegetables, sweet peppers, hot peppers, squash and cucumbers, along with dried fruit and fresh eggs from their 150 laying hens.

Miss Brandi's Sauces, Seasonings and Rubs — Travis and Brandi Lowery — Mariposa: Homemade barbecue sauces, meat rubs and seasonings made with no artificial preservatives and no bleached sugar (brown sugar only). Brandi, who attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Los Angeles, has loved to cook since she was a little girl.

She has also spent time as a pastry chef for a catering company and country club in Beaumont, Texas, and in Baton Rouge, La., before returning to Mariposa where she attended high school as a teenager.

Her barbecue sauces include wild berry, made with locally grown blackberries, Kansas City, tangy, honey and bourbon whisky. Meat rubs include sweet and spicy, blackened, smokin' good and jerk seasoning.

The mother of three daughters with a son due in late July, Lowery spends about 20 hours a week preparing her products.

"I love being able to work out of my home which allows me the time to spend with my children," Brandi said.

Golden Valley Farm — Mario and Sandra Daccarett — Chowchilla: Artisan European-style sheep cheese.

"Our cheese is made from 100% sheep's milk from Friesian and Lacaune sheep," Mario said. "The secret to our great tasting cheese is the aging process," Mario said. "We age all our cheese in our cheese cave. This brings out the flavor and allows the aromas to really blend."

Selections include Golden Valley Delight, a moist buttery semi-hard cheese that is aged for seven months.

"You can really taste the sweetness of the sheep's milk as it melts in your mouth with a nice fruity flavor," Mario said.

Other cheeses available are Golden Valley Pecorino, a semi-hard Italian cheese accented with subtle nutty flavors and Golden Valley Pepato, a spicy creamier cheese with five different types of whole peppercorn added to the curd.

We's Farm — Cheeng We — Fresno: Fresh flowers and Asian produce including bok choy, sour melon and ingredients for stir frys and Asian cooking.

Creative Garden Produce — Lee and Karla Davis — Coarsegold: Naturally grown produce including onions, chard, turnips, zucchini. Also 100% watermelon, banana and orange fruit roll-ups.

Myers Produce — Larry and Debbie Myers — North Fork: Raspberries, red and Yukon gold potatoes, green beans and a variety of squash.

"Our slogan is fresh from our garden to you," Debbie said.

Juicy Fruit Farm — Bob and Susan Klassen — Reedley: Tree ripened fruit including peaches, white peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots.

D.S.B. Custom Agriculture — Daniel and Shannon Babshoff — Kerman: Organic cherries, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and melons.

Wendy's Chickens — Jerry and Wendy Davis Meharg — Oakhurst: Long time egg purveyors of fresh layed eggs, chickens and rabbits.

Fantasy Oaks — Todd and SuEllen Stone — Oakhurst: More than 20 handmade natural goat milk soaps including rose, lavender, oatmeal and honey and bay rum. All made primarily from milk from goats raised on the Stone farm. Also hand knitted wash cloths and soap sacks made by SuEllen.

Bluebird Trail Farm — Chris Kiefer — Coarsegold: Extra virgin 100% organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Details: Shelia Smith or Theresa Bryant, (559) 683-7117.

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