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Changes Under Way at Farmer’s Market

Sept. 28, 2008


The Sierra Madre Farmer’s Market, which began operation in late May of this year, is making some changes in an attempt to better serve the needs of its customers, and to try and increase weekly attendance.  Effective this week, in anticipation of daylight savings time, the Farmer’s Market, located in the Mariposa parking lot behind the shops along Sierra Madre Blvd, will be open from 3 to 7pm each Wednesday.


While the change in hours is expected to help with lighting issues during the fall and winter hours, the days will continue to get shorter, and so the Market has now begun to add evening lighting, which was a concern for some customers. 


The number of vendors at the Sierra Madre Farmer’s Market varies, usually in the range of 25 - 30 vendors.  Vendors come from all around, including some from Sierra Madre, among them Wildflour Baking Company, Sierra Madre Candy Company, and Zia Sun Salsa.  Vendors making their way here from outside the area include Bill’s Bees, which was recently awarded “Best Local Honey” by Los Angeles Magazine, and Gourmet Grill Masters, which serves free range rotisserie chicken, and was recently cited by the LA Times in an article titled “Choosing the Top Rotisserie Chicken in L.A.”  An extensive variety of fruit and produce, as well as seafood, tamales, kettle corn, and cobbler are all available at the market.  A complete list of vendors can be found at the Market’s website,, which also has an e-mail form to send suggestions or comments.


About half the vendors are “Certified Farmer’s Market” vendors.  According to Tanja Castle, Market Manager for Scholastic Gardens* (which runs the Market with the Community Services Department), that means that “the farmers have been inspected and certified by the Department of Food and Agriculture and given permission to sell their products directly to the end users (customers) at specific venues (such as Farmer’s Markets) without the usual requirements of packing and labeling their produce into standard size boxes and packets, and without any middle men.  Anything they sell at the market came directly from the farm.  For the customer, this is a better guarantee of freshness and nutritional value as these are local California farms and often the produce has been picked from the fields the day before market day.  In comparison, vegetables and fruit that are imported from other countries could spend days or weeks in transit.  Often the produce must be picked unripe so it can survive the trip, and once in the U.S. it is gassed to artificially ripen it.  This results in nice-looking produce, but the nutritional value is diminished.”


The market has suffered some from the extended stretch of hot weather, with temperatures heading upwards of 90 or even 100 degrees nearly every Wednesday this summer.  Though the stands themselves are generally covered and the produce and other food items protected from the sun, and though there are shade umbrellas and chairs to sit on in the shade, that type of stifling heat is still somewhat daunting.  After a brisk opening, attendance has not maintained its early promise, and it is hoped that by changing the hours and adding lighting, more people will be encouraged to come by in the cooler evening hours to enjoy the village atmosphere, live entertainment, and of course, the produce and prepared foods available.  Additionally, the marketing program for the Market is being expanded.  While the change in hours, the addition of lighting, and the expansion of marketing are all part of the fine-tuning of the market, the critical element in determining whether the market continues in Sierra Madre is whether residents leave their home on Wednesday afternoon, and encourage their friends and neighbors, even those from surrounding communities, to avail themselves of the certified produce available.


“The Market has been popular and we’d like to run it through the fall and winter, “ said Ms. Castle, “and provided we get the continued support and patronage, we’ll be able to do that.”


*About Scholastic Gardens - Their purpose is to improve diet and nutrition by providing sources of fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables through certified Farmer’s Markets.  Their special emphasis is on working with local schools and youth activity groups to educate children about good nutrition, the concept being that good eating habits, well taught at an early age, become good eating habits for life.  Scholastic Gardens donates to existing programs with profits from the Farmer’s Market.


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