Farmers Marketing Beyond O.C., in Joshua Tree

The groovy high-desert town has a lively, well-stocked Saturday market with a loyal local clientele—and visitors are welcome

Among the many and varied delights of road tripping, finding farm stands and farmers markets ranks right up there for me. Planning a trip to the high desert a couple of months ago, I dutifully noted a Saturday Joshua Tree Certified Farmers Market. Great market! I had to visit again when I was back in the desert recently—it’s a contender for the top spot on my Outside-O.C. Farmers Market list, in fact.

I know lots of Orange Countians frequently make the easy trek to Joshua Tree National Park—why not build in a little time on a Saturday morning for the market? It’s right on Highway 62 in the little town of Joshua Tree, near the park’s west entrance. From a park campsite, you could zip out for fresh produce and be back communing with gigantic rocks in just minutes.

Market manager and founder Lori Herbel, a former farmer who sold at markets including Corona del Mar’s, says, “When I moved to the high desert after we sold the farm, I was disappointed with the produce in the grocery store. So, I told myself I either had to start a farmers market, or move. The rest is history.” Herbel even used to sell alongside some of the farmers she invited to her Joshua Tree market.

It’s not a large market, but excellently edited, with an emphasis on pesticide-free, and even the merchandise vendors have to sell things they’ve made—no resellers. I love the chance to meet growers I don’t see at O.C. markets, like Anza’s Nest Farms, where I got beautiful butter lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and rarely-seen yellow sweet corn. (I much prefer yellow or bi-color corn to white.) I bought fantastic free-range eggs from Angelo’s Farms of Newberry Springs, and couldn’t resist an enormous, 33-pound Desert King watermelon with pale green rind, bright orange flesh, and big, shiny, black seeds from T & D Farms of Redlands, which turned out to be delicious in the way only seeded watermelons can. I also bought a sweet little pumpkin from T & D, willing fall to come. (Hasn’t worked yet, weather-wise.)

Road tripping note: We never take off without a cooler—absolutely necessary for getting market finds home in perfect condition, even in non-desert temps.

 

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