High Desert Farmers Market serves up local food in Victorville

Codi Kozacek

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — On a Thursday morning, the High Desert Farmers Market at Victor Valley College bustles with a festival air. It is savory with the scent of empanadas and strung together by a hum of English and Spanish.  Under a parade of crisp white tents, growers from across the High Desert and Southern California offer a variety of fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, breads and flowers.

The weekly market is held year-round. At any given time, shoppers find an array of fresh produce and local meat; “grocery goodies” like bread, cheese, homemade candies and cupcakes; and handmade and import goods such as oils, incense, soap and jewelry. It also hosts an open-air “food court” where vendors sell coffee, lemonade, tamales, barbeque, kettle corn and other prepared items.

“Everything is grown seasonally, so if it’s not in season in California, it’s not on the table,” said market manager and founder Kerri Santoro. She added that the food comes directly from farmers on state-certified, inspected farms.

Longer growing seasons, microclimates and special varieties mean that many fruits and vegetables are offered all year. Strawberries, citrus, broccoli and cauliflower are a few examples of produce that is nearly always available, as long as the weather remains favorable, Santoro said.

In spring, sugar peas, asparagus, artichokes, and cucumbers join the lineup. As for fruits, cherries start in April or May, followed by apricots, plums and peaches. Melons appear in June and July, while pears and apples round out the season in the fall. However, due to a late, cold spring, Santoro explained that everything could be a little behind this year.

Santoro founded the market while she was still a student studying plant science at Victor Valley College, and it began celebrating its 25th season last year. She said her original goal was to raise awareness of High Desert agriculture and educate consumers about where their food comes from. Over the years, that mission and the market community have kept her motivated.

“I am passionate about farming and the people involved. This is like my family, my extended family, and everyone behaves as such,” she said. “And we’re bringing opportunity to the community to plug in, to have connections to a sustainable source of fresh, good food for their families. So that’s important.”