Finding Farmers' Markets - Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market in Orange, CA

This post is part of a series Much Ado About Fooding is doing on farmers' markets - Duc and I plan to visit as many as we can, starting in southern California, to get a sense of what sets each apart, what drives communities to them, and what gems people should look out for. To keep track, bookmark the "Farmers' Market" category.

Every week, I look forward to my e-newsletter ("The Juice") from the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market which tells me who their upcoming Featured Farmer and Featured Artisan are that Saturday at the small but savvy farmers' market. An intense list of events and fundraisers is also sent over, a tribute to how robust the market aims to be and an example of how this community is spoiled by the passion in people. Situated near Chapman University in the corrugated metal Historic Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse (VPO) lot, the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday from 9AM-1PM (rain or shine!) in a location that begs no fanfare but still invites passersby in with the buzzing activity and bright signage. The VPO lot itself with its historic ties to agriculture is quite the apt location for a "buying local" market and gives character to the buildings towering above the vendor booths. The distribution of vendors makes the market seem small but upon further inspection, you'll see that there are more than enough high-quality vendors to finish off your week's shopping list with a farmer-centric side and an artisan section. We really quite enjoyed browsing all of the booths and seeing just what specials were out that day.

"Founded and run by long time Orange California residents, Orange Home Grown Inc’s primary mission is to cultivate a healthy community through family friendly and community based educational programs in collaboration with likeminded community organizations. Emphasis is placed on wholesome nutrition, sustainable practices, health and fitness, and strengthening neighborhood and community relationships. Educational events will be geared to all ages and income levels." [Orange Home Grown website]

The dog-friendly area denoted at the entrance by a simple sign and plush bulldog immediately caught my attention the very first time I visited (I've been to this market several times now) because I am weak-willed when it comes to furry four-legged friends. Tempted to walk over to say hi to the canine cuddlebugs, I always have to resist seeming the intrusive dog-less stranger who is just creeping around, touching others' dogs. Maybe next time I'll bring Rusty...

Typically there is a food truck parked just outside of the entrance as well for those who want a sustaining meal before they begin shopping, usually announced via Twitter. There is also the ever-present knife sharpening truck as well in case you need to hone your blades. Every time I have gone, I have truly enjoyed the entertainment they have near the front as well which is usually a local musician performing in front of several shaded tables - visitors can sit here and relax, eating or just listening. Vendors include florists, farmers, and food artisans; everything is food or farm-centric here with nary a craft vendor in sight so it is a great destination for those who shop with their stomachs.

In line with the food focus at the market, there was also a nursery (Laguna Hills Nursery) showcasing a variety of starter herbs and plants as well as junior trees. An impressive array of common and unique plants lining tables and the cement floor is one good reason to visit this market; not only are the plants healthful and bountiful but the attendants are very knowledgeable about growing and gardening. Don't be afraid to ask questions! We also spotted Carlsbad Aquafarm, about whom we had written a four-part interview editorial, shelling out the freshest of oysters and shellfish. They are a wonderful and sustainability-conscious farm that creates amazing products using very nature-driven methods; I definitely recommend this farmers' market for their oysters.

In the produce aisle, we came across so much variety that it was hard to decide what to buy. Fresh juices, fruits, and vegetables were abundant, especially from the Sweredoski Farms from Bell Gardens, CA. I might even dare to say that their booth had more produce that one might find at a grocery store and better priced ones at that! If you have any questions about where to even procure specific vegetables or herbs, they can help get you on your way to finding those.

We also greatly enjoyed speaking with Bill Walter, head beekeeper of Guerilla Beekeepers, not just about his product that morning but also the movement he and his organization are working on propagating. The group of "guerilla beekeepers" involved rescue and reuse hives all across southern California, trying to save these insects that are strong barometers of the health of our general ecosystem. Did we also mention that the products from this mission are also impressive? There was honey but there was also all-natural balms (I have a jasmine one that is divine) that would make great gifts while spreading word of the noble mission this group has!

So what about the artisan corner? It's hard to resist purchasing something from this lot in the lot because the products are just so fantastic. I have seen different types of pastry vendors, dressings and marinades creators, and even jams and marmalades craftsmen. Staples here include bread from the infamous OC Baking Company by Dean Kim (the only public location where you can get his legendary breads), cheeses and cured meats from Provisions Market, superb infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Enfuso (say hi to Flo!), avocado oils, hydroponics produce from Future Foods Farm, dips, and so forth. On occasion, there are also appearances by a local winery, fresh pasta makers, and bottled sauce slingers.

Overall, this is the perfect market for a food lover who both cooks and enjoys artisanal products. It has all the produce you would be looking for and special products you didn't know you would need in your life but really do need (after sampling). Live entertainment, a food truck, high-quality vendors, ample parking, dog-friendly area, and enthusiastic backers make Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market a gem in itself. No wonder I keep coming back! Find them at online and 304 N. Cypress St, Orange 92866 in person on Saturdays from 9AM-1PM. Oh and before I forget, it's cash only here.

This post is part of a series Much Ado About Fooding is doing on farmers' markets - Duc and I plan to visit as many as we can, starting in southern California, to get a sense of what sets each apart, what drives communities to them, and what gems people should look out for. To keep track, bookmark the "Farmers' Market" category.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.