Sundays at the Market
After traveling the world to research communities with enduring lifestyles, Diane Haworth and Michael Varbaek realized that the most sustainable communities embraced the concept of togetherness. With this in mind, they designed the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market to be a place where people could gather together to enjoy their neighbors, support local produce and commerce, and enjoy the beauty of the Ranch. With an emphasis on longevity and embracing a healthy style of living, the RSF Farmers Market provides its visitors with the opportunity to bring fresh produce, handmade goods, and new memories home with them every Sunday. We speak with Market Managers Diane and Michael about how their market has evolved into a beloved community hub.
Q&A with RSF Farmers Market Managers
Diane Haworth & Michael Varbaek
What is the history behind the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market?
My partner Michael and I purchased the market in December of 2014 with the vision of creating a unique farmers market that would be more of a community gathering spot, not just a place where you go with a list and a bag, grab what you need, and then leave. As longevity researchers we have traveled around the world studying and documenting the lifestyle, diet, and habits of the longest living cultures. We focused specifically on the villages where they have identified the highest concentrations of people living the longest – 100 to 110 or older. Based on our research, we created the market to embody the “Sunday piazza market” concept where the community gathers together and spends time with family and friends, becoming a part of something greater than themselves on a weekly basis.
What is your role within the market?
Michael and I are the owners and managers of the market. Whenever we are in town, we are at the market. It’s our favorite day of the week.
Tell us more about the mission of the RSF Farmers Market, specifically its goal to help farmers. Why is this important?
In addition to creating a community gathering spot, we believe it is extremely important to support local farmers and growers so that this generation and those to follow will have access to local fresh produce grown without pesticides that is organic and not genetically modified.
If we do not shop local and support local, we may all end up eating food that was not provided on the earth in the first place, but rather engineered foods created in labs. Michael and I are certified growers and beekeepers ourselves, and we are very committed to seeing that people have access to beautiful real foods and local honey.
Does the market partner up with any local organizations or businesses?
Yes: Rancho Valencia, Morgan’s Run Club & Resort, Dolce Pane E Vino, Floral Palette, Helen Woodward Animal Center, the RSF Fire Department, and the RSF Library.
How has the market evolved since it first opened?
It has grown not only in size but also in attendance. We have new vendors and we continue to evolve, listening to the demands of our shoppers. This market is for the community and it is really your market; we are just the gatekeepers.
How many vendors does the market host?
It varies from week to week as some vendors are triple-space vendors and some are double-space vendors, but we have the room for about 70 vendors.
“This is a very unique market. It’s more of a destination or an experience than just a place you go to shop.”
Please tell us about the variety of vendors within the market.
Some people come to the market for our fresh local produce, micro-greens, and sprouts, and some come just for a Sunday brunch made by the incredible chefs at the market. Others like the handcrafted jewelry, linens, cutlery, fresh juices, smoothies, and salt blends. Some visitors come weekly for their farm fresh eggs, local fresh fish, fresh breads and cheeses, ceviche, homemade tamales, succulents, and more still for the flowers direct from the growers.
We have some families who come after church weekly so they can spend time together, enjoying a meal while listening to live music outdoors in sunshine and fresh air. Also, the locally made organic ice creams, sorbets, gluten-free desserts, macarons, and dark chocolates all have a following of their own!
What makes the market a unique gathering spot for the community?
We have café tables, bistro chairs, and market umbrellas throughout the market, with fresh cut flowers on every table. We bring in a trailer load weekly of living, blooming plants that are placed throughout the market, including fruit trees like dwarf lemon or orange trees, tomato plants, fresh herbs, and more, so children can begin to understand and make the connection of where their food comes from.
We have really great live entertainment, a children’s booth, and extraordinary fresh foods prepared at the market with chefs from around the world. We have a chef from France preparing French crepes and pastries, a chef from Lebanon preparing manoushe, a chef from Spain preparing paella, a chef from Venezuela making arepas, fresh Mexican seafood dishes, freshly made Italian pastas, and a beautiful rotisserie truck, just to name a few.
Approximately how many visitors attend the market?
Any given week it’s in the thousands, rain or shine – we have very loyal shoppers.
Aside from fresh produce and food, what other goods can shoppers find at the market?
Hand-forged Japanese knives, local handcrafted jewelry including gold, silver, semiprecious stones, gold, diamonds, and more. Photographic artwork, paintings, French linens, Moroccan towels, wraps, and vegan silk pashminas made from cactus fibers. You can shop for cork shoes, purses, and other cork products from Portugal. Visitors can also find travel wear, body and bath products, and more. We even have a master gardener specializing in succulents who is there every week to give you gardening advice and share some of her rare succulents.
Approximately how many farmers supply food to the market? Do any food vendors carry organically grown produce or cuisine?
We have approximately 15 to 20 different farmers and growers who supply food to the market, as some of our booths have multiple certificates and farms they work directly with. So one booth may have three certified producer certificates, etc.
Yes, we have organic produce, cuisine, prepared foods, and body products at the market.
Tell us about the cost benefits of shopping at the RSF Farmers Market.
The prices are very competitive, but perhaps more important than that is the fact that you are buying from local farmers, artisans, chefs, and up-and-coming small businesses. We are so proud to support local entrepreneurs at the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market.
I also think it is wonderful to actually meet the people who grow and make the food you eat, the cutlery you reach for every day, or the jewelry you wear – the way it used to be.
“It is wonderful to actually meet the people who grow and make the food you eat, the cutlery you reach for every day, or the jewelry you wear – the way it used to be.”
What sets RSF Farmers Market apart from other markets in the area?
Well, this is a very unique market. It’s more of a destination or an experience than just a place you go to shop. All it takes is one visit to become hooked. The following that we have attests to the fact that people are starving for a sense of community, a place where vendors remember your name, and where you see your friends and neighbors. Perhaps it’s because we all live in houses that are far apart, drive alone in cars instead of walking, or spend time on cell phones instead of having conversations with one another. Either way, the market provides you with the opportunity to meet your neighbors and really get to know your community for the first time.
How will the market change when fall ends and winter arrives?
The market is year-round, rain or shine, so the only thing that changes with the seasons are the varieties of produce, flowers, and crafts. With the holidays coming up you will find lots of one-of-a-kind gifts for the person who is hard to shop for, and we also have RSF Farmers Market gift certificates available!
What is your favorite thing about managing the RSF Farmers Market?
The time we spend with others, being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, the live music, our shoppers, and our vendors. We hand-select our vendors so we have a really wonderful group of people we want to be around. As I mentioned before, it is truly our favorite day of the week. We always feel as if our batteries have been recharged on Sunday evenings. It is a great way to start a new week.
Are there any upcoming events that you’d like our readers to know about?
Yes, we often have free giveaways at the market like free mini bouquets, free mini pumpkins or mini pine trees, free bubbles, or mini shopping bags for the kids.
How can the community learn more about the market?
As a culinary arts chef, I also enjoy creating a new recipe for our weekly newsletter called “Fresh News,” which utilizes seasonal produce and foods found at the market each week. Sign up for the newsletter on our website.
You can find out about the upcoming events, our Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market recipes, and the free giveaways either on our website or by joining our newsletter. The link to join is on our website.
At-A-Glance | Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market
Managers/Owners: Diane Haworth and Michael Varbaek
Day: Every Sunday
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Address: 16079 San Dieguito Road, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92091
At-A-Glance | Market Managers, Diane Haworth and Michael Varbaek
Names: Diane Haworth and Michael Varbaek
Professions: Diane and Michael – nutritionists, longevity researchers, motivational speakers, co-owners of the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market; Diane – author, former strength trainer; Michael – former ONE Pro cyclist and captain of Spago/Finlandia Cycling Team
Interests: Cycling, longevity research and health, traveling, reading, writing, gardening, speaking, and educating
Favorite Spots in Rancho Santa Fe: Rancho Valencia Resort, Dolce Pane E Vino, Poppy Boutique, Floral Palette, and Mille Fleurs