The Farmers Market open on Thursdays, 9am – 1pm, in downtown Oceanside offers everything from broccoli to honey, from pears to pomegranates, and from flowers to nuts. But that doesn’t mean that produce is the only thing available.
The market has become a shopper’s mecca for clothing and jewelry, lotions and scenic photographs, souvenirs and lots of gear bearing the logos of sports teams.
And although there may not be as much hot ready-to-serve food or entertainments as the nighttime Sunset Market, there’s still homemade tamales, crepes, and an assortments of dishes from the Mexican, Lebanese, and Filipino food booths. Cappuccino and seasonal treats like pumpkin spiced chai latte are available at the coffee truck.
Entertainment on a recent Thursday was provided by Pua Fuamantu, singing and accompanying himself on the guitar.
Mark Bendixen said he’s been market manager for 24 years, almost from its start. “We can do a lot of stuff other places cannot do,” he said, because San Diego is uniquely situated – climate-wise, to offer fresh produce year-round that can’t be found in other parts of the country in winter.
Many customers are home-town Oceansiders, like Marielle and Rudy Caron, bringing their twin three-year-old granddaughters, Ellyce and Everly. The Carons said they have the girls every other Thursday and always bring them to the toddler time at the library and then to the market.
Katie Horch, who with her 20-month old daughter, Kingslee, was shopping in a booth offering children’s outfits, said she’s “totally for” supporting local businesses. “I’m all about that,” she said. “My daughter and I live here,” she said, and they want to patronize local merchants.
Susan Brown of Oceanside, hurrying down the street because she HAD to have croutons form Kelly’s Croutons, said she uses them for everything from soups to salads.
Bendixen, and the merchants said there are a growing number of visitors as well. The influx can be seasonal, such as with the “snowbirds” from colder climes in winter and “a lot of people from Arizona” in the hottest months. “Oceanside is a real destination spot,” he said, adding customers from nearby timeshares provide “new faces coming from all over.”
Clifford Letuli at the Kealoha Essence booth selling fragrances of Hawaii said business is pretty steady but “we notice during the holidays it does pick up a little more.”
At Chrystal’s Pure Honey, Chrystal McBride said she’s occupied the same spot on the street for the past 16 years. “It just got bigger,” she said of the market. “When we started, it wasn’t nearly as big.”
McBride’s booth features all kinds of honey from loganberry to avocado. Her husband Dale offers a customer a sample of their exclusive citrus-blend honey and says “you’ll never taste that anywhere else.”
“We like Oceanside, like the area, the downtown,” fruit-and-nut merchant Carolynn Caffey said, calling downtown “a melting pot of ethnicities.” Her produce is grown in Arvin, near Bakersfield, but the home kitchen and packaging operation is in Oceanside.
Herb-grower Uskey agreed that there has been an influx of newcomers. “I don’t think people know what a tourism mecca” Oceanside has become, he said, calling farmers markets “the food source for people who are concerned about what they eat.”
Story and photos by Lola Sherman