17. Bike to Monterey County Farmers Markets

You’ve struck green!

When it comes to fresh, locally grown food, we’re incredibly fortunate in Monterey County.  We have an abundance of fresh produce year-round, with peak season–when farmers markets are bursting at the seams–from approximately May to November.

Better yet, much of the produce is also organically grown. (Check the Monterey County Weekly’sComplete Farmers Market Bible Summer 2013” by Mark C. Anderson and Eduardo Cuevas for specific number of organic growers at each of our county’s markets.)

Free bike valet parking is provided at Monterey’s Tuesday Farmers Market on Alvarado Street. Check with valet provider Green Pedal Couriers for any updates.

For more about organic growers

See “Have you hugged an organic grower today.”

How can you know if something is really organically grown?  Look for the signs that indicate organic certification by CCOF or other USDA accredited certifying agents in the USDA National Organic Program.   (Here is the USDA’s list of accredited domestic organic certifiers.)  For more info, see this fact sheet on understanding organic, which describes the various types of labeling.

Bring your own bags

Remember to bring your own reusable bags.  Forget?  Don’t feel guilty, just get in the groove.  Happily, unnecessary use of plastic is definitely on its way out in Monterey County (see March 2008 decision about banning use of petroleum-based bags).  Bag it! 

Update:  The City of Monterey passed a plastic bag ban December 6, 2011.

How to store produce without plastic

Thanks to Ecology Center of Berkeley, CA for their Sustainable Living fact sheet, in printable PDF format: “How to store fruits and vegetables without plastic.”  (If you cannot download a PDF, read Washington’s Green Grocer story, “How to store vegetables and fruit without plastic.”) Special thanks to Monterey Bay Certified Green Business Passionfish of Pacific Grove for this resource.


Jameson Bryan, walking his bike through the bustling Old Monterey Tuesday market on Alvarado Street, stopped at the organic walnuts and apricots stand operated by Ken Morrow.

Thank you, field workers

Only because of the labor of individuals, like those pictured below, does fresh produce get from the fields to the farmers markets and other outlets.

Market locations

Salinas is known as the Salad Bowl of America/the World.  And throughout Monterey County, you will find a tantalizing farmers markets in one of our local  communities on most days of the week.  Locations include Carmel, Greenfield, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Seaside (new), and Soledad.

For days and times, check the following websites.  (Note that one of the first Monterey County farmers markets, the market at Monterey Peninsula College/MPC, changed in August 2010 from its longstanding Thursday afternoon time to a new day and time:  Fridays, 10 am – 2pm.  Be sure to stop by Windmill Farms stand for their collard-kale-chard mix. You won’t find a yummier, easier way to eat your greens!)

Also be aware that the website times for the various farmers markets may not reflect seasonal changes (e.g., the Old Monterey market closes at 7 pm “during winter,” and at 8 pm when days are longer; confirm times before heading to market by calling 831-655-2607). As cited above, the Weekly’sComplete Farmers Market Bible Summer 2013” is a handy reference too.

Who bikes to a farmers market?

Annabelle Bull’s bike basket was full of fresh produce

when she caught my eye at the MPC farmers market in August 2010.  She had biked to that market to pick up ingredients for pickle-making. Here she is on another August day at MPC, biking off to do her family’s marketing again!  Annabelle, a Brit who now resides in Monterey County, clearly hasn’t given up the joys of cycling as she grew up; see Bicycle Culture and Youth for more about that.  (Photo of Annabelle courtesy of Joanna Bull.)

Beyond fresh produce

Not only are farmers markets the best place to buy fresh local produce, at many markets you will find other local foods, too (e.g., seafood, honey), along with prepared food booths, crafts, and street musicians!  These are a fun cycling destination and a great way to mix with the local community.

Try a bite!

And as you meander along the aisles, you are often invited to sample the yummy produce and other offerings.

The vendors are friendly and helpful.  Especially in the less hectic periods, many are happy to take time to offer tips on storage, meal preparation, and more.

Parking

If you’ve tried to find vehicle parking on farmers market days here and have been frustrated, you know one great reason to bicycle to the market:  much easier parking.  See “How to do it by bike” below for tips!

A healthy hang-out spot

Farmers markets are truly bursting with life.  They are a great place to hang out with old friends, or make new ones.

Pals Sidney Ramsden-Scott and Jacquelyn Smith meetup with young Sierra Dehmler at the Monterey Peninsula College (MPC)  market.

Laurie and Tom Coke’s popularity is partly due to their delicious, organically grown produce, and partly due to their kind, calm, caring manner.

How to do it by bike

Parking your bike:

  • Once you arrive at a farmers market, because of heavy pedestrian traffic at these popular weekly events, it’s usually best to lock up your bike and walk the aisles without it.  In some cases, where there isn’t heavy pedestrian traffic, it may be fine to walk your bike through the market instead.  Common sense will tell you which is the case.
  • Bike through?  Biking through these markets is usually not recommended, and in most cases, it isn’t allowed.
  • Free bike valet parking is now provided at Monterey’s Tuesday Farmers Market on Alvarado Street, as of 4/9/13 (still the case 11/12/13). Check with valet provider Green Pedal Couriers (831.920.8181) for any updates.

Bring a day pack to carry purchases.  If you have a large household to shop for, consider a  trailer, cargo bike, or various other options to haul your food home.  Ask for suggestions at Monterey County bike shops.

Be mindful of the safety factors that come into play when carrying even a little cargo, or something as simple as a purse; see “Personal Safety” and “Shopping” sections of this guide.

A solution that I’ve used for a big shopping (or to avoid heavy items, e.g., melons, squashing delicate items like berries and tomatoes) is to park on the outskirts of the shopping district, then bike over to get what I need with my little daypack, returning to the car to unload as needed.  This is an example of how bike-and-ride can be so practical.

Yet another option, of course, is to do your marketing on more than one day a week—as is so commonly the practice in many European and other countries.  With our multiple farmers markets in Monterey County, that’s definitely a viable alternative.

Kristin Meagher on the bikeways near Wharf II.

That’s a short bike ride from the Alvarado Street Tuesday market and the MPC Thursday market.

Kristin’s all set for a farmers market stop–that daypack can hold a nice stash of yummy Central Coast produce.

Bon appetit!

* * * * *

Bike-and-ride–for daytime or dark

Here’s a reminder of  why farmers marketing–or any shopping–can often benefit from bike-and-ride options.

Living in a rural area requires biking isolated roads, so returning home at night by bike isn’t appealing.  That’s another time when bike-and-ride can be great.  And in my area of the county, there is no evening bus service, so a bike rack on the car is an especially helpful bike-and-ride solution!  

Just park the car at the edge of town and bike all over to do errands.  Then bike back to the car, load up bike and stuff, and get home comfortably in the dark by car.

Prefer to bike in the dark? Sometimes I do too! See tips for night riding.

Rx for shopping by bike

Here’s one easy bike-and-ride Rx and

a great reason to purchase a bike rack for your car:

  1. Park where parking is easy, such as on the outskirts of a busy farmers market neighborhood.
  2. Bike nearer to the congested shopping area, with a daypack or cargo pouch, etc.
  3. Lock up your bike, and walk the market aisles.
  4. Bike back to your car to drop things off.
  5. Repeat as needed.
  6. Smile! You got to market without any parking hassles today.