By Tarmo Hannula
Bella Vista Ranch of Hollister has recently added a new stop in its farmers market schedule: Live Oak.
The ranch, owned by fourth-generation farmers Deborah Muschari and Pat Stevens, grows a mixture of Italian olive varieties for olive oil production. The olives are hand-picked, sorted, and crushed at one of the last stone mills in California, using granite stones from Italy. The Tuscan varietals include Frantoio, Luccino, Pendolino, Maurino and Taggiasca.
“We’ve been growing organically since 1998,” Muschari said. “That’s before a lot of growers even knew what that was. We have so many friendly customers here. A lot of people ask the deeper questions about quality here. I had one person ask me about polyphenols; I was really impressed.”
Polyphenols are micronutrients are in certain plant-based foods and are packed with antioxidants and other health benefits.
Kim Tush, who owns Santa Cruz Balsamics and bottles her products at the El Pajaro Commercial Kitchen in Watsonville said she has run her stand at Live Oak for two years.
Tush added that she was happy to introduce Muschari and Stevens to the Live Oak market. She said she met them at the Palo Alto market and encouraged them to feature a table of their olive organic olive oils at Live Oak.
“I like the people here,” she said. “I sell at markets between Palo Alto and Carmel and Live Oak is different. The vibe here is different; people are relaxed. To me, this place feels like a community, like family.”
The Live Oak market, in the East Cliff Village shopping center on 15th Avenue, unfolds every Sunday (rain or shine) from 9am to 1pm in the heart of Live Oak and draws a wide spectrum of vendors, from organic produce to seafood, balsamic vinegar, bakeries, olive oil, coffee and flowers. Long standing businesses such as Happy Boy Farm, the Kitchen Incubator, Hidden Fortress Coffee — all of Watsonville, Rooster Ridge Farm of Aptos, Fog Line Farm, Wild Stone Bakery, and Pro Edge Professional Knife Sharpening Service, Blossoms Farmstore and Coffee Shop (in the former Five Mile House in Corralitos) have served as the underpinnings of the market that also features live music, a kid’s play area and outdoor seating for dining.
Started in 2000, the neighborhood market has grown into a weekly event that is shared by the communities of Live Oak, Pleasure Point and Capitola. It is now in its eighth season as a year-round market.
Bella Vista Ranch also has a booth at the Morgan Hill Farmers Market on Saturdays, as well as other markets from Carmel Valley to Burlingame. For information, visit bellavistaoil.com.