I started off writing this blog post by wondering whether “Farmer’s Market” or “Farmers Market” is more correct, and I couldn’t find a definitive answer. My go-to grammar website couldn’t even tell me for sure! I’ve decided that I’m in the no apostrophe camp but if you disagree, let me know in the comments because if there’s one thing I love to debate, it’s grammar! #nerdalert
Any whoooo, onto the topic at hand: San Diego Farmers Markets! I plan to eventually make it to every single one of them and provide you with a review. According to the Internet there are fifty five weekly Farmers Markets in San Diego – that’s pretty damn incredible! I’ve sure got my work cut out for me, but I’d love to see what each market has to offer. As of now I’ve only been to 8 of them, but I love them each for different reasons.
The Hillcrest Farmers Market is possibly the most popular/crowded second only to Ocean Beach. Most everyone in San Diego has been to this market at least once, but if you’re like me and my boyfriend you’re there every single Sunday morning without fail. We have turned it into a weekend tradition and I personally look forward to it all week long. I love waking up, hazily getting dressed, sleepily riding in the car, making our mandatory first stop at the coffee stand and then letting the sunlight wake me up as we stroll around and look at all of the beautiful produce that the market has to offer.
For these reviews, I thought I’d create a list of elements against which to rate each market. If you think anything is missing, let me know and I’m happy to add it in for the next review. Each score will be out of a traditional 10!
PARKING – 2/10
Let me start by saying I love this market – it might be my favorite (if not only because of habit and sentimentality). However, I’ve got to be honest: the parking sucks. It’s all street parking, and even if you get there right at 9AM when it opens, you’ll have to park a good quarter mile to half a mile away. The streets are always congested with others also looking for parking and frequently stopping in the middle of the road to wait for a spot. If I remember, they used to let people park in the adjacent DMV lot and that was a lot more manageable. But now, come prepared with some extra parking patience!
SELECTION – 10/10
Maybe I’m being liberal with my scoring, but it’s hard to imagine a Farmers Market that has a better selection than Hillcrest does. There are multiple stands that sell only produce, with many of their seasonal selections overlapping so that you can really browse through and look for the best option. There are also farms that offer rare items at times, like Sage Mountain Farm who sells garlic scapes for their very short growth period in late spring/early summer. There are cheese stands, dip stands, jam stands, raw dessert stands… I become giddy with excitement every single time I walk through this market because the wide selection fills my imagination with the possibility of what I might cook.
The ready-made food stands are separated from the produce, and are situated more closely to the main street of Hillcrest (University). This area offers an incredibly diverse selection as well! French crêpes, East African combo plates, Indian curries, freshly caught sea urchin… our favorite by far is an amazing vegan stand called Anthem Vegan. They have a burrito there that my boyfriend and I would sell our souls for. We go every Sunday at around 9:30AM to get it – it’s called the SoyCal Burrito and it’s fucking amazing. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Just to give you an idea of how many of these burritos we’ve eaten, they have a frequent buyer card where you get the 10th item free and we’re about to get our 4th free burrito. We only ever get the burrito. JUST TRUST ME OKAY?! GET THE DAMN BURRITO.
CROWDS – 3/10
Now, the size of a crowd might be good or bad depending on your personality but I’m going to assume that the majority of people don’t enjoy large crowds. The Hillcrest Farmers Market is very crowded, no matter what time you go. Be prepared for people being in line in front of you at the produce stands to pay for their veggies. You’ll likely almost trip over many strollers/children. Although dogs are not technically allowed (due to health regulations) people bring them anyway. I don’t mind this because I fucking love all dogs, but just note for yourselves that it is against the rules.
ATMOSPHERE – 8/10
The good part of crowds is that they have the potential to create a lovely atmosphere. I happen to adore the atmosphere at the Hillcrest Farmers Market! When I’m strolling along with a coffee in hand, taking in all of the bright colors of hundreds of fruits and vegetables, I also love drinking in the additional sights and sounds surrounding me; young families with smiling babies, alternative families with fur-babies in tow, close friends taking a stroll while sharing a pastry… I’ve hardly ever heard a stressed word escape anyone’s mouth while enjoying the pleasures of this delightful market.
COFFEE – 7/10
Coffee might not be a “must score” for everyone, but for me is absolutely is. I like to visit Farmers Markets as early as possible so that I can get right to cooking, and so a proper caffeine boost is a must. The Hillcrest market has two main coffee stops, each situated at the far ends. Both are good but neither is amazing. They’ll do for 9 in the morning, but it isn’t a cuppa joe I would necessarily write home about, you know? There is a coffee stand at another market that I die for, but I’ll save that for the next review 🙂
Overall, I love this Farmers Market to death. It was the second market I ever experienced in my life, and was where I learned a lot about the importance of supporting local farmers and buying locally grown produce. The resources used to ship groceries across the country, or even across the oceans, is astounding. If you can afford to buy at least some products from local growers, you will be doing a great service to the environment, as well as your local economy. Plus, these items are grown with love and care and I’m convinced that you can taste it in the flavors.