I love farmers markets. Regardless of where I’ve lived, I’ve always made it a point to find my nearest market and try to visit once a week. Sometimes I need a specific thing, other times I just like to see what other people are growing.

With every visit I end up talking with either a fellow patron or farmer, and gain a new gardening tip or meal idea. When I travel, I make sure to seek out the local markets, as there is no easier way to explore local foods then by checking out the produce, meeting the people who grow it, and the people who shop there.

Thankfully, I don’t have to travel far to reach an awesome farmers market, as the West End Market is within walking distance to my home. Held on Sundays from 10-2, the West End Market takes place next to a city park in the middle of the historic West End neighborhood. Now in its second season, this is my favorite of Santa Rosa’s farmers markets because it is small enough to allow me to spend time talking to the farmers, or catching up with the other fellow shoppers, but large enough to provide everything that I need from my shopping trip. On most Sunday mornings, my husband and I walk down to the market with our dog Stella, and he hangs out with her at the dog park while I make the rounds, then he takes a turn. Sometimes, we then hang out on the lawn and listen the live music and share a ceviche tostada from Simply Ceviche, munch on a loaf of Revolution bread, or devour perfectly ripe strawberries straight from Handlebar Farms.

Started by residents and the West End Neighborhood Association, this market is a vibrant gathering place. The adjacent lawn is always set up with umbrellas and people hang out and picnic and kids run around chasing balls. Vendors sell colorful produce from handcrafted displays. Small scale meat producers chat with patrons about the best way to prepare a cut of meat. Delicious smells come from the variety of handcrafted soaps and candles, and shoppers taste honey and sample small bites of cheese. Neighbors meet and catch up, on hot days kids stand under the spray tent, and shoppers connect with their farmers. I came home from my last visit with a head of elephant garlic the size of a softball and two gorgeous plump eggplants, from Foggy River Farm. I’m looking forward to turning them into a tasty meal!

Running until December 14th, the West End Farmers Market is located at 817 Donahue Street, Santa Rosa. Hope to see you there!