On Saturday, Phat Beets Produce introduced a flea market component to its weekly farmers’ market in North Oakland. By bringing in over 10 different vendors offering cooking demos, artisans showcasing different crafts and neighbors selling household items, Zach Matthews, one of the co-organizers for Phat Beets, said the flea market concept is geared toward getting more people to participate in the weekly farmers’ market in the Santa Fe community near Adeline and Market Streets.
“If you look around, you’ll see there aren’t many stores selling fresh produce. [They are] selling mostly liquor instead,” Matthews said of the neighborhood. “We wanted to create place that people can get access to good food at affordable prices.”
It’s been over a year since Phat Beets first started this farmers’ market in the parking lot behind the Arlington Medical Center, just one of their three markets in North Oakland. Matthews said he hopes the foot traffic in the farmers’ markets creates more awareness about their community supported agricultural (CSA) boxes also known as “Beet Boxes.” The box is a weekly combination of organic and locally-grown fruits and vegetables purchased from small-scale, sustainable farmers. Each box also provides a $2 voucher for a patients at the Children’s Hospital Oakland’s Healthy Heart Clinic to buy fresh produce from any of the three farmers’ market.
But healthy eating is just one of the reasons why Toro Hill continues to sell produce for Farmy Farms, a small farm from Stockton, at the Phat Beets market. “It’s about making everyone in the community a lot more comfortable with each other and bringing up the morale,” he said, adding that the number of people coming to the market has doubled since it’s inception.
Across the parking lot on Saturday, as part of the first Phat Flea’s Market Bazaar event, Brett Brenner and Adrienna Ayalas were rolling vegan nori wraps filled with beans, homemade seed pate and sweet potatoes. “We do it all fresh, every morning,” said Ayalas, who buys the majority of the ingredients at the Phat Beets market and aims to keep vegan food accessible and affordable to people in the community.
One booth over, Jessica Lattif, the Beet Box coordinator, was chopping vegetables and sautéing noodles on a portable stovetop. Several people crowd around to watch as she demonstrated how to make garden chow mein, a healthy version of the Chinese entrée.
Chris Meyers and Rob Weitheimer from the Alchemy Collective, a worker-owned café in Oakland, were serving single-cup dip coffee using a siphon coffee maker. It’s similar to the French press method, but Meyers said it delivers a much cleaner and bolder tasting cup of coffee
“We are do-it-yourself kind of people,” Weitheimer said, “We like to make things.” They recently hand-built an espresso cart that will be parked five days a week at Biofuel Oasis Market in South Berkeley. The collective is looking to open up a café in Oakland eventually. “We want to be a good example of a worker-owned business,” Meyers said. “We think its really important thing in our economy that not enough people know about.”
For now, the flea market will only occur on the last Saturday of each month but may become more frequent if it’s successful. The farmers’ markets will continue weekly on Saturdays from 10-3 pm at the medical center parking lot located at 5717 Market St. They accept WIC and EBT and encourage gardeners with an excess of produce in their yards or plots to bring it to the market for a produce swap.
Garden Chow Mein (recipe from this week’s Beet Box newsletter)
1 bunch curly kale, rinsed & chopped 1 bell pepper, diced 1/2 cup radish, sliced into strips 2-3 more cups of your favorite veggies, trimmed & chopped (carrots, broccoli, green beans, etc)
1/2 cup onion, sliced 1 tbsp ginger, grated 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 pound fresh Asian noodles 1/4 cup soy sauce 2 tbsp sesame oil 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp canola or other cooking oil 2 tbsp rice vinegar white pepper
Boil noodles in a large pot for recommended time, then drain, cool and dry for at least one hour. In a large skillet, heat oil until nearly smoking; add the noodle “nest” and cook until they begin to brown, 2-4 minutes. Turn them over, taking care to keep the “nest” together if desired. Cook on the other side until brown, another 2-3 minutes. Set aside on a serving platter or in a large bowl.
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar and a pinch of white pepper; whisk to combine. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add onions and liquid mixture, stirring or tossing constantly to coat and cook thoroughly, 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir well. After heated through or about 3 minutes, cover and simmer for another 5-6 minutes. Pour mixture over noodles and garnish with fresh chopped scallions, sesame seeds or crushed red pepper. Serves 4-6 depending on portion size.