Santa Monica Farmers' Market Celebrates 26th Anniversary with Distinctive Vendors
As grey skies started to clear after a rainy night, the vendors at the Santa Monica farmers market opened their stalls on Saturday, March 3, standing by their promise of being open in "rain or shine all year round”. The chilly day, however, did not dampen the friendly atmosphere that was present between customers and vendors.
This month of March marks the 26th anniversary of this Santa Monica neighborhood farmers' market located in Virginia Avenue Park, where local produce vendors gather each Saturday of the year from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. This market is one of four farmers markets in Santa Monica, and is only a few blocks away from Santa Monica College.
The farmers' market at Virginia Avenue Park offers a wide array of fruits and vegetables, both conventional and organic. Apart from produce, this market also offers a selection of food that customers can enjoy when taking a break from shopping. The options included breakfast, lunch, coffee or a healthy smoothie.
Murray Family Farms, based in Bakersfield, brought a global flavor to the market by introducing uncommon fruits. The vendors specialize in rare and exotic fruits, and currently focus on the seasonal citrus fruits grown at their organic orchard.
Steven Murray, the owner of the farm, travels internationally for the exotic fruits that are grown on their farm. One of their most popular rare citrus fruits at the market is the Asian fruit “Buddha’s hand,” which many people walking by stopped to ask about, with the adults being just as curious as children. “They're good for you and one of the unique things we sell here,” said Jazz Bodi, an employee of Murray Family Farms.
Bodi has seen the market's popularity increase, and hopes more people will realize what a farmers' market can offer compared to a grocery store. “It’s literally pulled from the ground three days ago. It’s from the farm to your face," Bodi said. “Anybody who says they would spend more at a market should probably double-check their expenses.”
One of the vendors drew in customers walking by with a “rain blowout clearance sale.” Sister Alberta, an employee of JF Organic Farms from San Bernardino, convinced most visitors to come to a halt at their stand as she yelled out “Put your hands on it, magic!” She said their organic farm represents being awake and alert through the food that you eat. “Come on over and be blessed!” she yelled.
One of the visitors to the market was Santa Monica local Ana Dippel, who comes to the market every Saturday with her three children and husband. She has been coming on and off for the past five years, and really enjoys what the market has to offer.
“It’s a perfect combination of conveniences that come together. You can make friends here and there’s a communal feel to it,” Dippel said. “The best part is that we can both shop, have lunch, go to the library, and play with the kids outside all in one visit.”
Dippel believes there are many options for students as well, since it’s more than just a market, with a basketball court right next to it, a big grass area ,and the library that was recently updated. The prices at the market can also fit students who believe it’s too expensive. “Everything is in one place, and it’s not necessarily more expensive and is often on-par with grocery store prices if you compare it, and they offer a lot of non-organic options,” she said.
Long-time volunteer and farmers' market veteran Cece Bradley has seen it all since the market started back in 1992. She believes that a regular supermarket compared to a farmers' market doesn’t care about customers as long as they have their business. “That’s all they care about, most supermarkets buy their produce outside of the U.S. and there’s not enough inspection,” Bradley said.
The market also offers cooking classes and gardening lessons, which is something most people might not be aware of, according to Bradley. To her, It’s not just about spending money, but also gaining something they can't get anywhere else while being a part of the community. “They pay for a convenience they can’t get at a supermarket,” Bradley said. “This is a labor of love.”