Farmers’ Markets Cultivate Flavor, Community and Entrepreneurship Along the 78 Corridor

For more than a century, North County has been rich in agriculture.

For more than a century, North County has been rich in agriculture. According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau, San Diego is the nation’s 12th highest producer of flowers, avocados, tomatoes, citrus, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, succulents, and strawberries. The region is home to 44 certified farmers’ markets and over 400 certified organic growers, more than any other county in the nation. Today, agriculture is San Diego County’s fourth largest industry and represents $2.88 billion in annual economic value.

The best way to connect people with actual growers and makers of produce and products has long been local farmers’ markets, which continue to grow both in popularity and size across the 78 Corridor. Each farmers’ market – from coastal Carlsbad to inland Escondido – embodies the essence of what makes their North County city unique while promoting connection, community, and shared purpose between their people, farmers, and small businesses.

“Farmers’ markets are important to local economic development and help create a sense of place for the community,” said Michelle Geller, Economic Development Manager for the City of Escondido. “The cities along the 78 Corridor continue to support our markets, which also serve as the ultimate business incubators and allow local entrepreneurs to test their products in the marketplace.”

Below we take a closer look at five of the farmers’ markets serving the 78 Corridor cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido:

Carlsbad’s State Street Farmers’ Market Serves Up a Unique Farm-to-Table Experience

When the Carlsbad farmers’ market launched 25 years ago, its footprint was a small parking lot that accommodated no more than 30 vendors. Today having nearly doubled in size, the State Street Farmers’ Market sits in the middle of Carlsbad Village and offers a large variety of fresh organic produce along with prepared foods, handmade crafts, and live entertainment each week.

The 2013 move transformed the Carlsbad market into a festive destination that attracts people from all over the county to the downtown business district. With vendor booths facing retail businesses and eateries, visitors can stroll the vibrant Carlsbad Village to sample and buy from the market, and also shop and dine at State Street’s storefronts and restaurants. Patio seating at Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana is said to be the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine in the heart of the market.

Eager shoppers procure locally-grown produce and flowers at Carlsbad’s popular State Street Farmers’ Market

“The influx of people every Wednesday due to the market is obvious,” said Christine Davis, Executive Director with the Carlsbad Village Association, which sponsors the weekly market. “Compared to a non-market day, the streets are crowded with people who also take advantage of the shopping and dining nearby, thus growing sales for local businesses and tax revenues for the City.”

For its third year, the State Street Farmers’ Market has partnered with Carlsbad Village restaurants to offer a truly unique farm-to-table shopping and dining experience that promotes the market and the areas dining scene. For $70 per person, diners can participate in Shop With the Chef Dinners where they receive a private market tour followed by a five-course meal and signature cocktail made using fresh market ingredients. The events are held once a month throughout the summer. Participating restaurants include The Compass, Campfire, and Clara.

The State Street Farmers’ Market runs every Wednesday from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. (in spring and summer) and 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. (in fall and winter). It is located in the Carlsbad Village on State Street between Grand Avenue and Carlsbad Village Drive. For information about the summertime Shop with the Chef dinners or to reserve a spot, email

Oceanside’s Certified Farmers’ Market Grows Local Business, Community, and Awareness

On Thursday mornings, you’ll find locals, tourists, families, and foodies filling the downtown district for the Oceanside Certified Farmers’ Market, which originated as a farmer-only market more than two decades ago. Today, the Market’s variety offers something for everyone with 70+ sellers of locally farmed produce and flowers, artisan-baked goods, honey and sauces, and a wide selection of handmade jewelry, apparel, soaps, and lotions.

With a high concentration of locals, military families and vacationers, Oceanside’s morning market gives off a fun, family-friendly vibe that is always buzzing with live music. It’s become a gathering spot for regular locals who line Pier View Way in front of City Hall to visit, eat, and people watch.

“A lot of our local small businesses actually get started by going to farmers’ markets because they are affordable and a really good venue for trying out products,” said Mark Bendixen, Manager of the Oceanside Certified Farmers’ Market. “It is also a great place for our local non-profits to come out and build public awareness.”

The Oceanside Certified Farmers’ Market carries a wide variety of fresh tomatoes and mushrooms grown locally by small farmers

The market also does its part to support local organizations. For more than a decade, TERI’s Center for the Arts & Adult Education has had a booth presence at the Market, where its adult vocational students sell self-made arts and crafts to the public. This relationship gives students the chance to participate in their local economy while helping build awareness for adults living with special needs. This summer, musicians from TERI’s Performing Arts Enrichment Program also take the stage at the Market, performing songs from ABBA, the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Otis Redding with vocals, keyboards, and a drummer who plays the cajon.

“We love connecting with the local community and we can see people really enjoying the music that we play,” said Lisa Hightower Kibbe, Director of Music at TERI. “It’s a wonderful way for us to connect with people and showcase our talent while providing great music for a local event.”

The Oceanside Certified Farmers’ Market runs every Thursday year-round from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. It is located on the corner of Pier View Way and Coast Highway.

Vista: Where the Oldest, Greenest Farmers’ Market Keeps on Growing

Established in 1981, the Vista Certified Farmers’ Market is the oldest in the county and one of the longest-running in the state. The backbone of the market is its variety of seasonal, organic produce from more than 50 local farmers. Everything from avocados, persimmons, apples, oranges, strawberries, and peaches to dates, eggs, nuts, juices, honey, cheeses, sausages, plants, flowers, and grass-fed meats can be found at the market. The market also features an array of specialty makers for things like soap, clothing, pottery, and jewelry, as well as a World Fare section offering flavorful hot foods.

“Beyond our emphasis on actual farmers and makers, we have the lowest fee for farmers in the county,” said Mark Wall, coordinator for the Vista Farmers’ Market. “This gives us an odd and interesting selection from smaller farmers and gardeners who like to bring us their more exotic items.”

Vista’s Certified Farmers’ Market has provided the region’s largest variety of organic produce from local growers since 1981.

Vista prioritizes actual makers and farmers for every item it sells. This means produce can only be sold by growers and products only by their makers. Customers trust that when they shop at the Vista Farmers’ Market, they are supporting local entrepreneurs, which has helped build the Market’s active and loyal customer base. People travel from San Diego and Temecula to shop with Vista’s farmers and makers. Ten years ago, the Market had 1,500 customers per week. Today, it has more than 3,500.

Vista is also one of the greenest farmers’ markets in California. It began phasing out plastic packaging in January of 2018, eliminating plastic bags, straws, and sample cups, as well as all styrofoam. Now, it’s getting rid of plastic berry baskets and “clamshell” containers. The market’s efforts to go green have been well received by buyers and sellers alike.

“Farmers save hundreds of dollars by not giving out thousands of plastic bags each year – bags that are used once or twice but last many decades or longer,” said Wall. “Customers regularly bring back reusable items such as berry baskets, plant pots and jars, and many sellers offer discounts for doing so.”

The Vista Certified Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday year-round from 8 a.m. – noon. It is located in the parking lot of the San Diego County Courthouse on 345 South Melrose Drive.

San Marcos Farmers Market Aims to Become a Drive-to Destination

The newest farmers market to hit the 78 Corridor is set against the crisp blue backdrop of Lake San Marcos. On Tuesday June 4, 2019, City Mayor Rebecca Jones cut the grand opening ribbon at the San Marcos Farmers Market, which seeks to entice new people, investment, and sense of community to the City. The new market also supports Mayor Jones’ overall mission to transform San Marcos “from a drive-through city to a drive-to destination.”

Mayor Rebecca Jones cuts the grand opening ribbon at the San Marcos Farmers Market

“We are seeing people come in to the market from the San Elijo and La Costa areas, and it’s already proving to be a great attraction for us,” said Melanie Jamil, Event Director, San Marcos Chamber of Commerce. “The market is also a great incubator for some of our local businesses to get out there, test their product, and gain feedback from the community without having to invest in a brick and mortar presence.”

Driana Foods is one such company that sells handcrafted vegan cooking pastes inspired by the flavors of Spain. Based in San Marcos, owner and chef Adriana Sanchez makes all of her “Mojo” sauces in small batches using only fresh local ingredients. Selling products at local farmers’ markets allows Chef Adriana to build direct relationships with customers while also raising visibility for her private Taste of Spain catering services. In the future, Chef Adriana plans to expand her business by offering cooking classes that help people prepare easy and healthy meals for their families.

Driana Foods sells Spain-inspired cooking marinades that are prepared and packaged locally in San Marcos

The San Marcos Farmers Market opened with everything you would expect to find including, locally farmed produce, fresh breads and cheeses, flowers, honey, and oils. The market already has 45 local farmers and purveyors and enough space available to double in size. Located across the street from the newly renovated Decoy Dockside, the lake-front market also offers great walkability and ample parking.

Tess Sangster, City of San Marcos’ Economic Development Manager, was an early advocate for the new farmers’ market, having seen firsthand how similar markets have helped main street organizations in neighboring Leucadia and Carlsbad revitalize their downtown districts and generate passive income.

The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce sponsors the new market, which it operates with the help of seasoned event manager Ron Lachance (who also manages Carlsbad’s successful State Street Farmers’ Market). Lachance believes that a really good farmers’ market actually brings new people and customers into the district and gives them an engaging reason to visit the area. And he notes that while the San Marcos Market is new, it’s in a very cool spot and has great energy.

“This market is great for our economy, and it is also a civic and social gathering for people and families,” said Jamil “It allows people to get to know the farmers and crafters and other local businesses owners and establish a trust-based relationship that keeps them coming back.”

The San Marcos Farmers Market runs every Tuesday from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. (in spring and summer) and 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. (in fall and winter). It is located at 1035 La Bonita Drive, across from Decoy Dockside.

Escondido’s Grand Avenue Farmers’ Market Blends Local Art and Farming

The Escondido Certified Farmers’ Market has been a weekly fixture on downtown’s Grand Avenue for more than two decades, offering locally-farmed fruits and vegetables, flowers and succulents, and a bevy of made-to-order hot foods like curries, crepes, and vegan-friendly fare. In addition to supporting local family farmers and independent purveyors, the market also helps sustain the Escondido municipal gallery.

In 2014, the Escondido Downtown Business Association transitioned management of the farmers’ market to the Escondido Arts Partnership (EAP), a 501c3 that promotes opportunities for artists through education, outreach, and performances. Running the farmers’ market helps the non-profit fund its Municipal Gallery, which features art from over 400 local artists and monthly exhibits that are free to the public.

The Escondido Arts Partnership Municipal Gallery in downtown Escondido

For EAP’s executive director Chrisanne Moats, managing the farmers’ market was a natural progression of the non-profit’s charter and the opportunity to blend local food and art – a perfect pairing.

“The majority of our vendors are family-owned farms within 10 miles of here and we are proud to support our local farmers and make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible,” said Chrisanne. “Having a Municipal Gallery operate the market makes it fun and allows us to incorporate activities that deepen the community’s relationship with art.”

Many of these art- and crafts-inspired activities take place in beautiful Heritage Garden, which offers a creative, park-like setting filled with fruit and olive trees, a gazebo, and plenty of bench seating for market guests. With an average of 2,000 visitors a month, the farmers’ market brings a weekly surge of foot traffic and exposure to downtown businesses.

“The farmers’ market definitely has a positive impact on downtown restaurants and storefronts,” said Chrisanne. “Attendance does vary by season but when we have that perfect Southern California weather, the market, the gallery and all of the surrounding businesses are busy.”

The Escondido Farmers’ Market runs every Tuesday from 2:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (June through September) and 2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (October through May). It is located at Juniper Street between Grand Avenue and Valley Parkway at Heritage Garden Park in downtown Escondido.

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