Don’t panic, certified organic

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By Dylan Slusser

By Dylan Slusser

In an age where many people prefer to communicate electronically, it is refreshing to see a place that still embraces human interaction: the farmers market. There is no substitution to be had for the warm smiles and friendly conversation found only in our communities.

The sound of rushing water calms the soul as it glistens under sunlight and pours over smooth rock face into the extensive fountains, welcoming patrons of the farmers market as one walks through a stretch of stores; each of which have the familiar Christmas decorations proclaiming their seasons’ greetings.

A blushing Santa Claus smiles while perched whimsically from his sleigh in the window of Magnolia’s, one store found on the strip as a prelude to the market.

Large pine trees lie foreshadowing the smaller trees that boast the pigments of autumn foliage: rust colored leaves immersed in hues of oranges and reds.

The enthused voice of one proprietor offers “free samples, free samples!” while walking into the street full of various tents and the wide array of their wares.

According to Raul Cuevas he has the “Ripest avocados in town” and will certainly let his potential customers taste a sliver to find out for themselves.

Cuevas is at the market every Saturday and he vows that he will continue to be “rain or shine.”

The market is not merely a place with prices on goods that put grocery stores to shame, but a beacon of interaction as well.

Many perusing patrons walk their dogs through the area, commonly stopping to converse with fellow animal lovers as their companions’ go through the familiar motions of sniffing each other over.

Donell Jansen was sitting on a small patch of grass with her two Border Collie mixed dogs and her one Labrador mix while her daughter Jennifer enjoyed picking out an assortment of organic vegetables and fresh flowers.

Donell Jansen, who is a regular at the farmers market, refers to the Saturday ritual as “a wonderful social community activity.”

The Winchester Cheese Company has proudly held a spot at the Riverside market for over a year now and offers samples of some of the richest and most flavorful cheeses.

The Winchester Cheese Company offers a product so exquisite that even a novice to the world of elite cheeses may be inspired to invite guests over to share in its indulgence.

The Smart Fish Company out of Los Angeles routinely attends the market as well. Rustam Halimov, who mans the Smart Fish booth, has a series of coolers brimming with ice and treats from the sea.

Halimov brings seafood ranging from Pacific oysters, ranging from one dollar each or $10 for a dozen, to fresh boneless red trout.

Every cooler has not only a description of the product but a lengthy suggestion for how to cook each, which is always a bonus for those who enjoy impressing their loved ones with new recipes.

For Marjolein Kruidhof who is a researcher of Etymology at the University of California Riverside and hails from the Netherlands, the farmer’s market reminds her of home, where outdoor markets are much more common place.

For others like Carol Bradshaw and her husband Ken, the market is a provider of top notch olive oils in chic bottles proffered by a lovely woman named Aspasia Kourkoulou, who would dazzle anyone with her inviting demeanor and vibrancy, even without any merchandise to sell.

Fresh flowers are available by the bouquet for a mere $5.

Many people consider the flowers a staple of the market, which is not hard to understand considering a similar bouquet runs for about $15 at the nearest grocery store, Ralph’s.

If the sense of community is not enough to entice someone to attend the market, there is one aspect that no one enduring these tough economic times that we all find ourselves in cannot ignore: the prices.

There were red and green bell peppers for 50 cents each or a bag of four for just one dollar, compared to the local grocery store price of six dollars per pound.

Bags of 20 oranges are sold at the market for five dollars, compared to four at the grocer for three dollars and fresh pluots (plum and apricot hybrids) for two dollars a pound versus four dollars at Ralph’s.

All of these great prices in addition to many more on items like tomatoes, limes, lemons, apples, nectarines, onions and cabbage are available at the market.

The certified organic farmers at Sage Mountain Farm and Phil Noble hang a banner which reads: “Don’t panic-Certified Organic” and lay claim to some of the only “certified organic” vegetables in the area.

The Farmer’s Market takes place right next to the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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