In an effort to restart the Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market (AUFM) that had its home on the Zane Grey estate, organizers held a community meeting at the Armory Center for the Arts Wednesday evening. Joseph Shuldiner, who has been tapped by the county to start a certified farmers’ market at , was also on hand.
Differences between the two markets include scale, atmosphere, and permits. The Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market, though drawing people from Los Angeles as well as the west San Gabriel Valley, was a small community affair. Vendors were backyard farmers and small producers of prepared foods, mostly made in home kitchens. The vendors typically sold out very early in the day, and so the market was more of a community gathering than a place to get a weekly supply of produce.
While participants in the meeting seemed to prefer an Altadena site, organizers left open the possibility of moving the market to another location outside of town. No specific sites were discussed.
The certified farmers’ market, which will be open on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. likely starting in October, will bring in small commercial farmers and other commercial food vendors. They will have enough product to last for the duration of the market. Both vendors and the market must be certified by the state and adhere to the county health codes. Unlike the home-grown market, certified farmers’ markets can accept food stamps.
The two markets will not be in competition. On the contrary, Shuldiner, who also worked on AUFM, was excited about the possibility of AUFM serving as an incubator for future vendors at the certified market. Several vendors have already expanded into commercial markets. Earl’s Gone Wild barbecue sauce is now being sold at Whole Foods Market and Mother Moo Creamery will be opening a shop in Sierra Madre soon.
While the Zane Grey location had its charms, organizer Janine Christiano said there were reasons that it could not continue at that location. There was not enough parking to accommodate the thousand or so people who came and no public transportation nearby. Vendors were limited and there wasn’t enough committed staff to run the market. While it was off the radar of the county health department, organizer Gloria Putnam said it was inevitable that would be an issue eventually.
Organizers and the two dozen or so community members present agreed that the market needed to return, preferably to Altadena, though the organizers are not committed to that. The home-grown atmosphere, opportunity to interact with neighbors, workshops, free booth, and cookbook swap were seen as lending an unusual and welcome tenor to the market.
Christiano said, “There was something really special about it. Vendors were not just producers. They were neighbors, friends, community members. That’s unique in this day and age. If you loved baking, you could practice being a producer, not just a vendor.
“The place was beautiful, but it’s not just that. It’s a thing we owned, right here in this specific location.”
Steps to make the AUFM viable for the planned November relaunch, both logistically and legally, include making it a private club requiring membership and dues; working in conjunction with the Arroyo Time Bank, perhaps starting with that mailing list; having more people collaborate in the work; getting a location or locations for the events; determining how much it should be allowed to grow; and methods of payment besides cash, which might include barter or time bank dollars or other currency.
While a membership-based private club might skirt some of the issues of a public market and increase buy-in for the work, one attendee said that the AUFM “already had an exclusive feel."
“With membership,” she continued, “we have to talk about how not to be exclusive.”
Putnam replied, “As we relaunch and the membership becomes more integrated, it will become more inclusive.”
Putnam also noted that the is “a huge proponent” of the market and that Shuldiner and Silvera Grant, president of the garden, have been meeting.
Another woman pointed out the necessity of reaching out to the ethnically diverse population of Altadena for both the AUFM and the certified market. She noted that residents near Loma Alta Park are predominately African-American, and that the people at the meeting did not represent that. (Attendees were white and Asian.)
“I would love to know if there are initiatives with the people in the community,” she asked Shuldiner, “so they know it’s theirs, too.”
Shuldiner agreed, calling the Loma Alta area “an interesting social experiment."
“Don’t forget our Latino equestrians,” another woman chimed in.
Shuldiner said his goal will to make the market as inclusive as possible.
“I hope the (certified) market will be amazing, will bring all these people together,” Shuldiner said. “It will be intentionally built to have everyone welcome.”