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With the abrupt shutdowns and adjustments that many businesses dealt with at the beginning of 2020, many farmers’ markets in the county made decisions that would affect the livelihoods of farmers and vendors. Many faced closures, such as the Costa Mesa Certified Farmers’ Market, which was able to reopen last June as an essential service. Others, like the reigning Irvine Farmers’ Market, adapted to a drive-through experience for a few months, in which visitors remained in their cars while meandering through limited vendors. 

With the recent progress the state has made in regards to COVID-19 cases, many markets are now beginning to bring back their usual number of vendors. 

Now more than ever, it’s important to support small and local vendors at these outdoor markets, which are also great for socially distancing.  Not only are you guaranteed a personal experience with the vendor who directly crafted or picked your product, but you can also enjoy different forms of entertainment, like music, games or live art.

Here are a few noteworthy farmers’ markets to visit on your next morning or evening off.

Surf City Nights

315 3rd St., Huntington Beach

Tuesdays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

After a yearlong hiatus, vendors and entertainers are bringing Huntington Beach’s Main Street back to life on Tuesdays during Surf City Nights. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., visitors can peruse three full blocks while shopping from local artisans, picking fresh produce, or enjoying live music from groups like The Jazz Cartel. 

The Jazz Cartel offers live entertainment to visitors at Surf City Nights. Credit: CRYSTAL HENRIQUEZ, Voice of OC

The atmosphere is welcoming and high-spirited, and you can catch some great views of the Huntington Pier during the sunset. Popular among many OC markets, you can even find Sunny Cal Farms here selling their freshest cara cara oranges, apples, dried fruit, nuts and more. There are also a wide range of flowers being sold, perfect to decorate for the spring.

TIP: Plan to get here early as any nearby parking tends to fill up quickly.

SoCo Certified Farmers’ Market

3315 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa

Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the parking lot of SoCo Design District is where the SoCo Certified Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The SoCo CFM may be one of the smaller markets in OC, however many unique vendors gather every weekend here such as Fleur + Butter, a woman-owned shop that sells hand-crafted bags and accessories. Vietnamese American Catherine Vu opened her shop to share her hobby of nature inspired art with others in her community. Vu only uses natural dyes from flowers, herbs, plants and spices for all her goods.

Produce stalls at the SoCo Certified Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. Credit: CRYSTAL HENRIQUEZ, Voice of OC

Bee Ladies Honey sells its locally produced raw and infused honey products, straight from the hive to your table. The founder of Bee Ladies Honey, Lynne Gallaugher, knows just how important the support from communities is at the moment.

“Pay it forward to them (the farmers)! You have no idea the sacrifices farmers make to produce clean, pesticide-free food for you,” says Gallaugher.

Downtown Anaheim Farmers’ Market

201 W. Center St. Promenade, Anaheim

Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Luckily, the Downtown Anaheim Farmers’ Market never had to shut down, and it continues to provide locals with a diverse group of vendors selling agricultural goods, jewels, crafts and specialty foods such as tamales, pupusas (Me Gusta Mexican Food Specialties) and hummus (Mom’s Specialty Foods).

Manny O’Campo runs Eternity Handmade Jewelry, selling thoughtfully handcrafted jewelry, crystals and gemstones. If you see a stone you like you can always ask O’Campo to customize it into a piece of jewelry such as a necklace, at whatever length you’d like.   

Another hidden treasure at this market is Lucky 13 Sweets & Treats, a family-run bakery out of Costa Mesa selling fresh packaged cookies in a variety of flavors such as peanut butter, chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle and toffeedoodle. The toffeedoodle cookie enhances the classic snickerdoodle, adding butter toffee into the mix.

Ladera Ranch Farmers’ Market

28275 Avendale Blvd., Ladera Ranch

Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A South OC gem, the Ladera Ranch Farmers’ Market has vendors that offer a wide range of products. In addition to an abundance of fresh produce, you can also find local favorites such as Bread Artisan Bakery. Authentic pastries like danishes and croissants at Bread Artisan Bakery tend to sell out fast, so get there early. Dang Brother Pizza offers fresh, wood-fired pizza cooked in a real fire truck. Yes, the stone oven has actually been built into an old fire truck!  There is also an array of food trucks selling everything from breakfast burritos, burgers, shaved ice, crepes and more.

For all professional and home cooks, you can even bring any dull kitchen knives down to the market and OC Knife Sharpening will save you the hassle. It only takes about 20 minutes for your knives to be sharpened, polished, wrapped and ready to go. Prices begin at $1 per blade inch for standard knives and can range up to $2.60 per blade inch for single bevel Japanese knives. For additional pricing on mandolins, food processors and restorations, visit the OC Knife Sharpening website.

You also can’t go wrong with Retro Grinds, gourmet coffee served out of a vibrant mobile trailer. Enjoy your pizza, coffee or other market finds while enjoying music from a different live artist each weekend, such as Color of Sound, Teenage Noise or twin sisters Grace and London Meredith. 

Tianguis Farmers’ Market

1621 Alton Parkway, Irvine

Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Founded just this year, the Tianguis Farmers’ Market brings a different taste to Orange County, as it honors Mexican culture through its predominantly Latino-owned shops. “Tianguis” is the Spanish word for an open-air market or bazaar that is held on certain days in Mexico or Central America, very close to what our farmers’ markets here are like. The tradition of a tianguis stems back to pre-Hispanic periods and it has since remained an essential form of commerce. 

Tianguis Farmers’ Market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays outside of the Eureka Building in Irvine. At the market you can find a variety of dedicated vendors such as Sandy Marquez, who just hopes to promote her business more than anything especially during this long lasting COVID era. Sandy Marquez designs all the rings, earrings, scarves and handbags at her stand. 

“For me it’s all about promoting and getting people to come out in person, because yes, they can shop online but when they come to the farmers’ markets I will probably give them $10 off or something like that,” says Marquez.

Tianguis Market also offers a game area for kids and various food trucks on the lot. If you spend $20 or more at any shop, you are also entered into a raffle giveaway and have the chance to win prizes from participating vendors.

Crystal Henriquez is an intern for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at crystalh774@gmail.com.

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