Wholesome Groceries

Organic Affair / Local growers sell fruits and vegetables including artichokes, radishes, lemons and plump vine-ripened tomatoes Thursdays in Downtown Santa Ana from 2 to 8 p.m. The market made a return after a five-year absence when a group of independent farmers banded together to restore the weekly event. / Rogelio Santana / el Don

By Rogelio Santana and Vanessa Cortez

Rather than pushing a cart down aisles at the store, thousands of locals found themselves heading downtown for organic fruits, vegetables and other products.

The Downtown Santa Ana Certified Farmers’ Market is celebrating its return to the city after a five-year absence.

Booths that fill the Spurgeon Promenade between Third and Fourth streets Thursday afternoons offer a different kind of grocery experience.

“I like finding out where they are growing things and what the process is like. There is something really intimate that you don’t get shopping at supermarkets,” said Marlene Bernstein, co-owner of Savour This Sauce, one of the market’s popular vendors.

Organic fruits and vegetables are handpicked and grown without the use of pesticides. A big selling point is how fresh the goods are when sold almost directly from the fields.

[quote]“The products come from the farm to here. They were picked today. They have not been refrigerated or lost any vitamins,” said Gaytan Family Farm owner Edelmira Gaytan, a returning fruit and vegetable vendor.  “I am super happy. I don’t do many markets but I come here for my people.”[/quote]

But much more than produce is available. Specialties include savory vegan sauces, fresh loaves of bread and hand-churned ice cream.

Consumers arrive in a steady flow, keeping vendors busy. Surrounded by apartment complexes, businesses and restaurants, the bustling area is a prime location to bring the community together, said Sean Coolidge, who works for the market’s Creative Services. Management was “very sensitive” to the Latino community and strives to have Spanish information available.

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Since the last market ended in 2009, there have been management changes and staff planning for a bigger and better return. The number of vendors and variety of offerings has just about doubled.

“People here are good people. I always thought this city deserved a top-quality market,” Coolidge said.

“They come together … very strong, very united. You can’t argue with the results.”

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