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August 20, 2014

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Could Downtown 3rd Farmers Market be Las Vegas’ Embarcadero?

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Courtesy: Downtown 3rd

Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, at the corner of Casino Center and Stewart, sells produce you can’t buy at the supermarket.

Standing under a canopy on Third Street, Carnevino back waiter Goose Hall tears open an oblong green fruit the size of a miniature pickle and holds it up for inspection. Inside are tiny beads of fruit—round, green, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a “caviar lime,” Hall explains, the kind of citrus you don’t normally find in the produce aisle. “I’ve seen stuff here I’ve never seen before—like caviar limes. You get to see a lot of exotic products,” Hall says.

At the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, which launched March 9, volunteers like Hall are not only introduced to rare fruits and vegetables, they’re making introductions. The new farmers market showcases both Nevada-grown produce and the selections of “intuitive forager” Kerry Clasby, who travels the California coast picking up exotic—or just plain delicious—fruits and vegetables and delivering them to farmers markets and chefs in California and Nevada.

Wearing an apron and a straw sun hat, Clasby darts around the small outdoor market, chatting up customers and purveyors, stopping for a drink at Grouchy John’s coffee truck, teasing friends and doling out samples of giant white carrots, kishu tangerines and more.

The Details

Downtown 3rd Farmers Market
Fridays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Corner of Casino Center and Stewart
Free parking

“We’re going to have more, and more, and more,” she says, surveying the inaugural market. And one week later she already does.

Downtown 3rd might have launched in the sunshine, but it’s actually meant to be an indoor market, moving inside the empty bus terminal building next to the Mob Museum on Stewart St. The building has sat unused for two years, according to Clasby, and Mayor Caroline Goodman donated the space to the nonprofit market, held every Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

With long indoor aisles under shiny copper ceilings, a round central kiosk and covered outdoor sidewalks that stretch away from the building, the space seems made for a market. Goodman has likened it to Boston’s Fanueil Hall; Clasby imagines our own Embarcadero.

Already that vision is beginning to take shape. In its second week, the market sees Henderson café Bread & Butter popping up, along with more vendors and food trucks feeding shoppers. Clasby hopes the space will someday hold chef talks and lectures, that the market will grow to multiple days and Las Vegans will learn to appreciate delicacies like field-grown lamb’s ear, surprise avocados and those caviar limes. It make take a while to get there, but Clasby is ready to make it happen.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” she says. “I used to do 13 markets a week in LA. I know all the pitfalls.”

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