The rich aroma of fresh produce is the first thing that hits you when you enter the Friday Farmers Market on the Promenade at Mosaic between 3rd and 4th Streets. Robust greens from Santa Barbara, exotic fruits from Fallbrook, flavored almonds from Bakersfield, and truckfuls of other harvests from all over Southern California provide quite a feast for the senses.
Begun in the summer of 1980 as a service project of the South Coast Interfaith Council to address food insecurity, the market has moved a couple of times over the decades, but it’s back and thriving at its original location once again.
On Fridays between 10 AM and 2 PM, locals, visitors, chefs, foodies, and fitness buffs can be seen at the market checking out some of the freshest and healthiest food available.
“A farmers market is the great melting pot for a community, the place where folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds are at the tables discussing what to make with zucchini or passion fruit,” said Market Manager Kelli Johnson, who happened to be standing next to a booth packed with fruits from Pedro’s Organic Ranch in Fallbrook.
The ranch’s offerings for this recent spring Friday included Passion Fruits, Pomegranates, Cherimoyas, Figs, Caviar Limes, Ice Cream Beans (they do taste like ice cream inside!), and Surinam Cherries.
Shopping at Pedro’s was Chef Paul Buchanan, who co-owns the Long Beach company Primal Alchemy Catering with his wife Dana. They subscribe to the farm-to-table ethos; Chef Paul diligently shops this market and others every week.
“I’m here shopping for citrus and apples for box lunches,” said Buchanan, who was preparing to serve 1,000 people in a variety of events over the next five days.
Nearby, local vocalist/songwriter/ukulele player Colleen McCandless serenaded market visitors with an eclectic selection of tunes, adding to the market’s relaxing, earthy vibe.
Besides live music and all that produce, the market hosts a natural dye workshop, book and clothing swaps, plant giveaways and a composting drop-off where you can bring your food scraps (no meat, eggs, or dairy) to the Long Beach Community Compost booth and assist their efforts to make healthier soil for our local growing community.
“People drop off their food scraps and stick around to buy produce, creating a true circle of sustainability,” said on-site Market Manager Jaqueline Barragan-Fuller. “There are people who used to shop here when they were kids. Now they’re adults and they’re coming back. We hear their memories of this market. It’s a very special energy, right in the middle of Downtown.”
Barragan-Fuller went on to point out how farm-to-table consciousness was raised during the pandemic, and how clean eating has become a more common lifestyle. “A lot more people want to know where their food is coming from, and they want to support local growers. Your food doesn’t have to travel far. It can arrive at your table from your backyard, your balcony — or this market,” she said.
“That’s right — no middle man,” added Laura Sarkisian, a Downtown resident who sells almonds from several farmers who grow their crops on 3,000 acres near Bakersfield. “At this market, you get the freshest of the fresh.”
Radicle Roots Urban Indoor Farm, which sells at this market and eight others all over Southern California each week, is on the cutting edge. Its crops are grown in a warehouse in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District.
The farm’s ultra-nutritious microgreens, grown on vertical racks in 10 days, are shopped heavily at the market by chefs and folks looking to eat healthy. Their mushrooms are grown on wood in the dark, closely simulating the natural growing conditions of Shiitake, King Trumpet, and other arcane mushroom varieties.
“With social media, people are seeing what’s out there food-wise, and many are gravitating toward cleaner, locally-grown food,” observed K.T. Hayden, who was manning the Radicle Roots booth. “We’re getting a pretty wide swath of customers.”
Head over to the Friday Farmers Market and experience a community that appreciates and utilizes food at a high level. You’ll be supporting a market whose main purpose has been to help support you and your healthy lifestyle for 43 years!
Special note for seniors: The market gives three coupons a week to seniors (60 and over), who can collect them and redeem them for groceries. In addition, the market honors CalFresh EBT cards, and offers a Market Match program. For example, if you withdraw $15 with your card, the market will match that with $15 in credit towards groceries.
Learn more about the above programs at goodveg.org and follow the Friday Farmers Market on Instagram @dtlbfarmersmarket.
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