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Valley Farm is the market every neighborhood should have

The 65-year-old family grocer brings meat, fish, and local products to Spring Valley

Valley Farms Market, now in its 65th year, and operated by the third generation of the Marso family
Valley Farms Market, now in its 65th year, and operated by the third generation of the Marso family

“You’re going to Spring Valley?” she told me, “You know, the best kept secret in San Diego is a Spring Valley meat counter. It makes the best carne asada….”

Place

Valley Farm Market

9040 Campo Rd, Spring Valley

A couple nights later, a wide strip of citrus and spice-marinated flap steak sizzled in my cast iron, about to prove her right. I’d chop it up for tacos, made on corn tortillas recently pressed by a Chula Vista tortilleria. Then dress it with local avocado, onion, spicy salsa, and San Diego brewed IPA.

Sadie Rose breads are part of the market's dedication to local products.

It made a fine meal, with every component purchased at Valley Farm Market. This year marks the 65th this third-generation grocery operated by the Marso family has held down its corner spot on Campo Road in Spring Valley. And while I’m sure the market has brought value to the community for most of its years, from my perspective the third generation’s the charm.

Behind the vision of Derek Marso, an ex-NFL defensive lineman, the store has become my kind of place. Beginning with that meat counter. One the left side you’ll find marinated meats including that celebrated Imperial Valley carne asada ($12.99/lb.), tandoori chicken, and teriyaki ribs. On the right there’s seafood such as Scottish salmon, wild-caught swordfish, and local halibut. In a freezer to the side are frozen game meats, from elk to boar. And in the center, you’ll find the good stuff: choice and prime grade steaks.

An aisle endcap promotes Ring of Fire hot sauces, made in El Cajon.

But it’s not just the meat that attracts me to this market. It’s a dedication to local products. On one aisle, I spotted breads from the Oceanside bakery, Sadie Rose. At the end of another, fiery hot sauces made by El Cajon’s Ring of Fire brand. I found Julian pies, locally roasted coffee beans, San Diego county wines, and it almost goes without saying, beer. In fact, one of my favorite finds in the meat case was a supply of thick, house-made bratwursts flavored with Second Chance Beer Co.’s roasty gold medal winner, Tabula Rasa porter. That made for another satisfying dinner at home, plated with thick spears of asparagus.

Which must be some sort of theme surrounding the produce section, where I found the most jumbo heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Just one would be large enough to make a small pot of marinara, which I topped off with a package of large, house-made Italian meatballs, also made by Valley Farm.

An assortment of jumbo heirloom tomatoes

I spent most of the week well fed by one fantastic, independently owned grocery store, and I didn’t even get to Mr. Morso’s not very well kept secret: the BBQ feasts he cooks up on the smoker outside. That’ll be a story for another time. And possibly a visit to the newer sister market in Windansea, which boasts its own meat and fish counter.

And if you’re reading this online, take note: Valley Farm Market is offering a special orange honey marinated corned beef the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Order some now, while supplies last. I guess the secret’s kind of out.

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Valley Farms Market, now in its 65th year, and operated by the third generation of the Marso family
Valley Farms Market, now in its 65th year, and operated by the third generation of the Marso family

“You’re going to Spring Valley?” she told me, “You know, the best kept secret in San Diego is a Spring Valley meat counter. It makes the best carne asada….”

Place

Valley Farm Market

9040 Campo Rd, Spring Valley

A couple nights later, a wide strip of citrus and spice-marinated flap steak sizzled in my cast iron, about to prove her right. I’d chop it up for tacos, made on corn tortillas recently pressed by a Chula Vista tortilleria. Then dress it with local avocado, onion, spicy salsa, and San Diego brewed IPA.

Sadie Rose breads are part of the market's dedication to local products.

It made a fine meal, with every component purchased at Valley Farm Market. This year marks the 65th this third-generation grocery operated by the Marso family has held down its corner spot on Campo Road in Spring Valley. And while I’m sure the market has brought value to the community for most of its years, from my perspective the third generation’s the charm.

Behind the vision of Derek Marso, an ex-NFL defensive lineman, the store has become my kind of place. Beginning with that meat counter. One the left side you’ll find marinated meats including that celebrated Imperial Valley carne asada ($12.99/lb.), tandoori chicken, and teriyaki ribs. On the right there’s seafood such as Scottish salmon, wild-caught swordfish, and local halibut. In a freezer to the side are frozen game meats, from elk to boar. And in the center, you’ll find the good stuff: choice and prime grade steaks.

An aisle endcap promotes Ring of Fire hot sauces, made in El Cajon.

But it’s not just the meat that attracts me to this market. It’s a dedication to local products. On one aisle, I spotted breads from the Oceanside bakery, Sadie Rose. At the end of another, fiery hot sauces made by El Cajon’s Ring of Fire brand. I found Julian pies, locally roasted coffee beans, San Diego county wines, and it almost goes without saying, beer. In fact, one of my favorite finds in the meat case was a supply of thick, house-made bratwursts flavored with Second Chance Beer Co.’s roasty gold medal winner, Tabula Rasa porter. That made for another satisfying dinner at home, plated with thick spears of asparagus.

Which must be some sort of theme surrounding the produce section, where I found the most jumbo heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Just one would be large enough to make a small pot of marinara, which I topped off with a package of large, house-made Italian meatballs, also made by Valley Farm.

An assortment of jumbo heirloom tomatoes

I spent most of the week well fed by one fantastic, independently owned grocery store, and I didn’t even get to Mr. Morso’s not very well kept secret: the BBQ feasts he cooks up on the smoker outside. That’ll be a story for another time. And possibly a visit to the newer sister market in Windansea, which boasts its own meat and fish counter.

And if you’re reading this online, take note: Valley Farm Market is offering a special orange honey marinated corned beef the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Order some now, while supplies last. I guess the secret’s kind of out.

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Comments
2

Since no one else has posted a comment, I will. Yes, stores like that one, family owned and operated, can do great things if they choose that approach. But it is a huge amount of work that is required to make it go, and anyone who runs an operation like that is in danger of burnout. Too often there isn't a smooth handoff from one generation to the next, and good operations just end up folding, in that the owners just cannot find a buyer. Never mind that it is a going concern that a buyer could take over.

Valley Farm is a sort of urban legend, and I'm acquainted with some who live in Spring Valley and environs. If/when it becomes necessary to pass the torch, such an operation should survive. I wish them well, and plenty of prosperity.

March 30, 2021
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
March 30, 2021

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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