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Loomis Farmers' Market makes fruitful return

Local produce cropping up at Blue Goose
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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After more than 10 years without a farmers' market in town, fresh fruit and produce fans can now shop at the Loomis Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings. Local growers of fruits and vegetables and nursery products, winemakers, and handmade crafters are selling their goods inside and outside the Blue Goose Fruit Shed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays throughout the summer. Mark Foley, who owns Blue Goose Produce and also started the farmers' market, sees it as an additional outlet for local growers and an opportunity for customers to actually meet the farmers and crafters, some of whom also provide his store with products. “It’s a bit more of a social gathering than to just come into the store to purchase the food that you need for your table,” Foley said. For Foley, it’s another way to encourage new growers in the area to utilize the land they have to grow the quality fruits that the county has become known for. “I know there have been, over the last few years, many people new to our area and some of them have purchased land with the remnants of orchards from years past,” he said. According to Foley, with a little bit of care and pruning, irrigation and attention, these land owners can bring back some of these trees to their full production. Primary tree crops included plums, pears, figs and persimmons. “There are probably even peach trees that have received enough care that they’re still surviving. With a little bit more care they could be thriving,” he said. Foley, owner of Westview Growers in Newcastle, is primarily a mandarin grower. On his farm he also cares for the remnants of an 80-year-old Hachiya persimmon orchard. “The trees now thrive and produce the persimmons that I use to make hoshigaki,” Foley said. Visitors to the Loomis Farmers’ Market will find the first of this year’s heirloom tomatoes. Mary Pierce, of Pierce Heirloom tomatoes, said about half of the 30 varieties of tomatoes she grows are now available, They include Bulls Hearts, Pineapple, Mule Team, prolific growing Lemonboy, and Brandywine, the most common variety that seems to have become the most sought-out tomato, she said. “Tomatoes need heat and sun,” Pierce said, and the weather had kept tomatoes from ripening. Daytime temperatures that reach the 90s and 100s mean warmer nights, which tomatoes also need, she explained. One grower who attends only the Loomis Farmers Market is Gordon Poulsen of Willow Creek Ranch in Penryn. He also sells his produce at Blue Goose Produce, and during cherry and mandarin season he has a stand at his Clark Tunnel Road ranch. “Cherries and mandarins are my principal corps,” said Poulsen. He grows those on 2-1/2 acres, and his other 4 acres are dedicated to apples, plums, persimmons, pears and seasonal vegetables. Poulsen’s farm includes the original ranch his parents purchased in 1958 when the family moved to Penryn from Carmichael. “It started out as a small hobby farm. It’s still a small hobby farm, but at least it’s getting planted,” Poulsen said. He retired two years ago after 37 years as a fruit inspector with the state Department of Food and Agriculture “I started planting what I thought was interesting and a challenge to grow good quality fruit. That’s what I inspected for: quality,” Poulsen said. Poulsen said he participates in the Loomis Farmers’ Market because it allows him to expand the variety of fruits and vegetables he grows. There’s food for the land as well at the market, thanks to Al and Debbie Newton of Mother Earth Tree Nursery. The nursery has been a side business for 30 years for the couple; he teaches at Del Oro High School and she at H.C. Powers Elementary. “We’re here to support the community effort,” said Debbie Newton. “We think the farmers market is a great thing for Loomis.” While Mother Earth carries other landscaping trees and plants, their specialty is Japanese maples. “There are thousands of varieties” of Japanese maples, Newton said. “They are wonderful because their great container plants, they have beautiful colors … They’re really hardy, easy to grow,” she said