LAFAYETTE -- A sleepy Sunday morning jaunt through the new Lafayette Farmers Market was a little like a fun, first date -- made all the more enticing with an I'm-in-love-already feeling and the observations of local shoppers.

"This is great!" said Andy Berry, a Lafayette resident who grew up in Moraga. "The old market was too small and there was no parking. This is personable and hometown-ey."

With his wife Aki voicing agreement, and even three month old Hiro burbling enthusiastically between them, friends from San Francisco joined them for breakfast in the cozy, car-free loop at the inner end of the market.

Dan Zehrun and Jaclyn Kordell came all the way from Napa to sample Green Girl Bakeshop's gluten-free, non-dairy ice cream sandwiches. Lisa Stoy, Green Girl's founder/owner/operator, hails from Hayward.

"We're having these at our wedding," the soon-to-wed couple explained, between spoonfuls of roasted beet ice cream and mouthfuls of chocolate chip coffee treats.

"They've got room to grow," suggested one name-shy visitor from Orinda, while filling her reusable bags with heirloom tomatoes and peaches.

A gentleman from Walnut Creek, exclaiming over the size and color of a vendor's very purple produce, said, "Walnut Creek got too big--takes me hours to decide what to buy! This is more manageable."


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The culinary reach from all across the Bay Area is unmistakable, not just in the shoppers -- informally estimated at 50 percent from Lamorinda, 50 percent "other" -- but in the vendors.

Urban Village runs 10 markets within a triangle formed by the South Bay, Oakland and Lafayette, operating according to the idea that what makes a market irresistible is the vendor profile.

"Based on Lafayette's culture, we knew the community was looking for higher level organics, specialty items and amazing produce," says manager Josh Assink.

Sharon Richards, of market sponsor Sustainable Lafayette, agreed, reeling off a list of hyperlocal (Yogi's Cooking, Steve's Bees, Frog Hollow Farms) and nearly hype local (Blue Bottle coffee, 4505 Meats, Crepe & Brioche Artisanal Bread) vendors.

At Blue Bottle's booth, Brandon Lowder had only one word to spare.

"Busy," he said, hustling to supply a healthy line of customers eager for their caffeine fix.

Fortunately, time seemed suspended at the weekend market. Unlike the hustle-bustle of hungry shoppers buying local goods at the end of a long weekday -- complaints about the previous Thursdays-at-5-p.m. market's scheduling registered second only to limited parking, for many -- no one was flustered this time.

"The market is selective about the vendors," Lowder says, during a break in the coffee action. "That sets it apart and speaks to the clientele."

Brooke Bates, cooking up an already popular breakfast sandwich at 4505 Meats, says shoppers are coming for the sustainable, grass-fed products the company has always produced.

Accustomed to the foggier side of the East Bay, she promises, "If it's raining sideways, we'll be here. There's no down time for us and this is our only East Bay location."

Nestled next to the South parking lot of BART, the market is isolated enough to feel like a park, with toddlers safely roaming between the stalls and foliage masking nearby public transportation.

Richards said customer feedback is vital. Recent requests include seafood and mushroom vendors, and more seating. Assink plans to add more local produce and will allow the mix of vendors to evolve with the seasons.

"The bottom line is that we will continue working hard to make this a market that the community loves," Richards promised, inviting the public to visit the Sustainable Lafayette website to share their feedback.

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