I don't believe that farmer's markets were intended to be this bizarrely over-priced, elitist monster that they have become, but when the pluots (plum-apricot hybrids) I found at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market in San Francisco were $7 a pound I knew I'd never go back. I had gone with the intention of buying produce for the week but left instead with a cup of coffee. I still get a little worked up over it.
At the Pinole farmer's market I found that the more I bought from one buyer, the more they were willing to throw things in for free and lower the prices a little bit here and there. This is pretty good, but the most exciting find for me came in the unlikeliest of places... Richmond. Their farmer's market is on Fridays from 8-5 on Barrett and 24th by the Civic Center. Richmond may not provide the prettiest of farmer's markets, but it has become my favorite.
Look at the picture above, and then go to Raley's and see how much $6 buys you.
One of my favorite growers there usually reminds me of an angry Santa, but today he was very friendly. At a little after noon he goes around and throws the produce into $1 bags. The prices are unbeatable and the quality is better than what you can buy in the supermarket. I had dismissed it at first because it isn't organic, but took notice when a friend mentioned how good the tomatoes in our sandwiches were. She was right. Then I made zucchini with sour cream recently with zucchini I bought from this farm, and made it again with supermarket zucchini. The ones from the farm were much, much better.
Another great farm sells on the far corner. They have a 45 acre farm and don't spray. Everything is picked the night before and never refrigerated. They sell all kinds of exotic vegetables and are happy to tell you what to do with it all. I have tried a few greens I don't have names for, young pumpkin, lemongrass, jujubes, peanuts, okra, and young jicama from there. I also bought what might have been sweet potato leaves.
If you need lettuce, cauliflower, or broccoli this might not be the place for you. But if you are willing to cook with what you find and experiment a little, I cannot recommend this more highly. I think it's a well kept secret.
I'm sorry I can't give you names of farms- every time I go I have two children with me and it was hard to research this while chasing them and digging around for spare change. But you should go.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!