Los Angeles Farmers Market - 75 years

Farmers Market in Los Angeles is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week. Seattle is understandably proud of its own Pike Place Market (which will celebrate its 102nd anniversary next month) and I've been there many times, but I don't remember ever going to Farmers Market. It is, however a landmark in the area.

It's interesting to me that the name of the market is indeed just "Farmers Market", without designating location. As with the many Seattle-area farmers markets (both ones which are part of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance and ones which aren't, such as our local Meadowbrook Farmers Market) the name has no apostrophe. It's as if the name were trying to emphasize that it's a market with farmers at it, rather than making it seem like a market for farmers.

The site of Farmers Market, 3rd and Fairfax, used to be a dairy farm. A businessman and ad copywriter got permission from the owners to invite local farmers to bring their trucks to the vacant land to sell fresh produce. Each of the 18 farmers paid 50¢ for the space and they must have done really well, since permanent stalls were erected within months.

Both Farmers Market and Pike Place Market are year-round and permanent, so there is quite a variety of stores. Farmers Market has several specialty foods (one that seems to sell mainly English Toffee) and restaurants (including Magee's Kitchen; Blanche Magee fed the vendors from when the Market was just starting), along with the usual mix of other stores (cookware, books, etc.) Our neighborhood markets are in parking lots or other spaces which have other uses throughout the week, so the vendors just set up for the day there; things usually get interesting when it's both rainy and windy.

One great reason to go to farmers markets is to get the chance to speak with the people who are providing the products to you. The vendors the University Farmers Market (we go there weekly from June through November) are very willing to talk with the customers. Just last weekend I walked up to a cheese vendor as he was describing to a couple customers the difference between fresh Chévre cheese and Chévre which had been aged, encouraging them to taste for themselves how they differed in sharpness and texture. The shellfish vendor always gives cooking and portion recommendations, and I've heard him explain how he uses the different parts of a geoduck. The farmer with whom we get our weekly produce bag was explaining the other week how he lets his rhubarb just grow the first year with minimal harvesting and how it affects later years, breaking off pieces for some customers to taste.

Of course, another great reason to go to a farmers market in the summer is there's almost always ice cream. Both the University and Meadowbrook markets have carts (we tried burnt sugar and salted caramel gelato from the Meadowbrook vendor, and they were both great). Pike Place Market has a great gelato shop within a block, and another one a couple blocks up the hill from there. Naturally, Farmers Market (the Los Angeles one) isn't immune - the vendor list shows Pinkberry is there.