The Old Town Newhall Farmer’s Market
The sun is not even up and Santa Clarita resident Larry McClements is sitting in the parking lot of the Old Town Newhall library waiting. Around 6:30a.m., farmers and food artisans from all over Southern California begin pulling in the parking lot to join him.
As everyone assembles, Larry walks from person to person inspecting what they are bringing in. He is the manager of the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market which is getting ready to celebrate its five-year anniversary. “I am not just the manager, I am also a customer,” he says. “This is my supermarket, I feed my family from here and I want top quality.”
His love of farmers’ markets started with a single peach. Years ago, while walking to his car on the California central-coast, he passed a farmers’ market. “They had a table full of gorgeous peaches and I bought one. It was love at first bite,” he said. “The peach tasted so fresh and vibrant and was nothing like a store-bought peach. When I got home to Santa Clarita, I started visiting local farmers’ markets. I continued to be wowed by the quality of everything they offered.”
Larry was present only as a customer when the Newhall market opened in 2015. The market was founded by Greta Dunlap who had a long career in farmer’ markets. “The city wanted a farmers’ market in Newhall so they went to an expert,” Larry said. “The city was and continues to be a great supporter.”
The market continued to grow when in 2018 a farmer asked Larry and his son Brandon to sell peaches. “I said yes. It was the highlight of my week,” he said. In late 2018, manager Greta announced she was retiring and moving out of state. “I asked her who was going to manage the market,” Larry said. “Greta told me, you are. I couldn’t say no.”
Larry’s son Brandon is now the Assistant Market Manager and together they oversee the entire operation. The Newhall Market is a certified farmers’ market. “We are heavily regulated by the county and state,” Larry said. “By law our produce has to be sold by the farmer who grew it or one of their employees. A farmer cannot sell their neighbors crops. The county knows what a farmer is growing, where it is being grown and how much of it they grow.”
Inspectors from the county Department of Agriculture regularly perform surprise inspections of the market and farms to ensure compliance, which Larry supports. He also travels to the farms himself when he can. “I love to get out and see where my food comes from,” he said. “I want the best not only for my family but for all of our market customers.”
The market continues to grow with new farmers and food artisans being added. “I do not just accept anyone,” Larry said. “Being that we are a true farm-direct market, our produce is fresher, better tasting and we have varieties you won’t find in the supermarket. Because our produce was picked days before and not weeks, I expect it to be far superior to what supermarkets can offer.”
This philosophy extends to non-farmers at the market. “I spent five months going to three counties searching for the best fish vendor. I found Marilyn from West Coast Seafood who has 40 years in the business,” he said. “She has the best quality fish I have ever seen. We routinely have several sashimi grade fish to choose from. During salmon season, they have four different kinds of salmon, all of it fresh, wild caught and sashimi grade. No one in Santa Clarita has that.”
“Harvest Gathering Farm brings pasture raised chicken, beef, pork and lamb to our market. She found me and wanted in the market. When I met owner Wendy, I was beyond impressed at the quality of her meats. It is the best tasting meat I have ever had.”
The market also hosts vendors selling baked goods, spices and teas, artisan bread, hummus and yogurts and hand-made veggie chips among other offerings.
Larry has focused on making the market a Saturday morning destination. “We have periodic festivals, live music and our weekly petting zoo. We also have the best breakfast burritos and churros made on the spot. Our churro vendor imported a special machine from Spain that is made solely for making churros. Who does this?” Larry said. “This is the level of commitment to quality all of our vendors have.”
Larry feels right at home in Old Town Newhall. The area continues to welcome in new businesses and attractions. Forty-six luxury apartments just opened across the street from the market while the Laemelle theater will be opening later this year. “I never thought the city would pull it off,” says Larry when speaking about the development. “Old Town Newhall has some of the best restaurants in Santa Clarita, wineries, a brewery, a wine bar, live theater and an assortment of great boutique shops. Most weekends after the market you will find me on Main Street listening to live music and enjoying the area “.
The Old Town Newhall Farmers Market is held every Saturday, rain or shine, from 8:30am until 1pm. It is in the parking lot of the Old Town Newhall library at 24500 Main Street. For more information, check out their website at www.newhallfarmersmarket.com.
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