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April 8, 2020

Live Oak Farmers Market’s big draw

LIVE OAK—For 25 years the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets have been thriving around the county in five outdoor locations: Downtown Santa Cruz, Felton, Live Oak (Eastside), Scotts Valley and the Westside.

The Live Oak market, in the East Cliff Village shopping center, unfolds every Sunday (rain or shine) in the heart of Live Oak and draws a wide spectrum of vendors, from organic produce to seafood, balsamic vinegar, baked goods, olive oil, coffee and flowers.

A trio of Watsonville businesses, Happy Boy Farm, El Pajaro CDC Commercial Kitchen Incubator and Hidden Fortress Coffee, has served as the underpinnings of the market along with other long-standing local businesses: Rooster Ridge Farm of Aptos, Fog Line Farm, Wild Stone Bakery, Pro Edge Professional Knife Sharpening Service and Blossoms Farmstore and Coffee Shop, which is now in the former Five Mile House in Corralitos. 

The market also features live music, a kid’s play area and outdoor seating for dining.

Started in 2000, the neighborhood market has grown into a weekly event that is shared by the communities of Live Oak, Pleasure Point and Capitola. Now in its eighth season as a year-round market, it is also the epicenter of the clean food movement, showcasing brunch offerings such as smoked, pasture-raised local pork and egg street tacos and cook-to-order custom traditional Michoacán Mexican dishes using fresh organic ingredients. 

Nancy and Curt Abramson have been selling fruit, flowers, olives and herbs at the market for the past four years.

“It’s a great crowd,” Nancy Abramson said. “We sell produce unique to this market. We sell a lot of flowers, lemons and olives. What I like about this market is that people here like to spend time talking with the sellers and learning about our products; it makes it special.”

Carin Fortin, owner of Blossoms Biodynamic Herb Farm of Corralitos, helps a customer at her Live Oak Farmer’s Market stand. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Kim Tush, who owns Santa Cruz Balsamics and bottles her products at the El Pajaro Commercial Kitchen in Watsonville, said she has had her stand at the market for two years.

“I like the people here,” she said. “I sell at markets between Palo Alto and Carmel and Live Oak is different. The vibe here is different; people are relaxed. To me, this place feels like a community, like family.” 

Tush mixes balsamic with various local fruit concentrates and other ingredients. Year-round flavors include pomegranate, chocolate raspberry, black cherry, blueberry, pear and mango. She also offers seasonal creations such as cranberry, key lime and blood orange.

Tush said she was happy to introduce Deborah Muschari and Pat Stevens, owners of Bella Vista Ranch in Hollister, to the Live Oak market. She said she met them at the Palo Alto market and encouraged them to feature a table of their organic olive oils at Live Oak.

“We’ve been growing organically since 1998,” Muschari said. “That’s before a lot of growers even knew what that was. We have so many friendly customers here. A lot of people ask the deeper questions about quality here. I had one person ask me about polyphenols; I was really impressed.” 

Polyphenols are micronutrients in certain plant-based foods that are packed with antioxidants and other health benefits.

Bella Vista Ranch olives are hand-picked, sorted and crushed at one of the last stone mills in California using granite stones from Italy. 

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