Get it Fresh

Pasadena’s farmers’ markets attract smart shoppers

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | 11:12 pm

The farmers' market brings the farm to town.

We see time and time again that the best ideas are the simplest ones. A farmer grows his crops and he takes them to the market. You buy them. Simple.

Somewhere, in the name of numbers and efficiency, this idea became farms the size of counties, thousands of trucks on the highway, and crowded supermarket parking lots just to get you an orange.

Over the last twenty years, however, the number and quality of farm-to-table farmers’ markets have increased and improved throughout Southern California, and particularly in Pasadena.

There are three farmers’ markets in Pasadena—Villa Parke, Victory Park, and the Centennial City Hall. Each features a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with cheeses,  baked goods and cookies. Both Victory Park and the Centennial City Hall markets are sponsored by the City of Pasadena Department of Recreation and Human Services.

The Villa Parke Farmer’s Market is the oldest of the markets, having opened in June of 1980, followed by the Victory Park market in March of 1984. Back then, Gretchen Sterling, current manager of the Victory Park Certified Farmer’s Market, was president of the Pasadena Neighborhood Improvement Association, who along with ecumenical groups, was given the property for use on specific days for their market.

According to Sterling, the state originally provided a grant to the Interfaith Hunger Coalition with a mission to provide low income areas access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Pasadena was only the second city in Los Angeles County to open its own farmers’ markets—the first being Gardena in 1979—and Sterling has been managing the farmers market ever since.

“Originally it was illegal for a farmer to sell fruits of his own production that was not sized,  with a grade, or didn’t comply with those standards,” Sterling told Pasadena Now. “The Ecumenical groups then got involved and said, ‘We need to get that produce that is still good to the customers that need it.’”

Victory Park currently has 42 farmers and 13 food artisans, serving seasonal produce grown in California, along with breads, fish, cut flowers, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. The food artisans create items like jams, pasta,  and italian foods, as well as kim chi, Korean BBQ and beef jerky. Many of the vendors have been at the markets since its inception. Latest vendor to the market waited twenty years for an opening, said Sterling.

The Victory Park market is open every day, “except when the Rose Parade floats are here,” said Sterling.

Pasadena’s farmers’ markets help solve the problem of local fresh food access for nearby consumers. You’re still on on your own with the parking, however. These markets are a pretty popular attraction.

Pasadena Farmers’ Market Villa Parke Center is at  363 East Villa Street. Open Tuesdays 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Pasadena Farmers’ Market  Victory Park is at in the 2900 block of North Sierra Madre Boulevard. Open Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Pasadena Farmers’ Market  at City Hall Centennial Square, 100 North Garfield Avenue, runs  April 16 thru Oct 29, Wednesday Evenings, from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

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