On Sunday, the will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a featuring pie baking and corn shucking contests, potato sack races and musical performances by Jaqueline Fuentes, Nichelle Monroe and Kamp Camille.
When the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market opened Aug. 6, 2006, there were hopeful hints of new beginnings on Grand View and Venice boulevards and their surroundings. Fast-forward to August 2011 and the area is now a bustling town square every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. The whole neighborhood turns out to shop for fresh, family-farmed California produce and delicious multicultural food offerings, to discover ecological and community information, and simply to have fun.
Mar Vista Farmers' Market began as a resolution put forth by then Mar Vista Community Council board member Andy Shrader. It was approved by the MVCC in September 2003 ad an Ad Hoc Farmers' Market committee was formed to explore the possibility and Lorraine Wells of Trash & Treasure thrift shop on Venice Boulevard volunteered to steer the committee.
In early 2006, several Mar Vista business owners and neighbors began to plan a farmer's market to help bring an identity and sense of community to the area, which at the time was lost in the sprawl of larger Los Angeles.
Lorraine Wells approached Venice Boulevard business owners Demetrios Mavromichalis of the and Jolie Chitwood of . They agreed, and together had the strength and wherewithal to form a committee.
They got to work and divided up tasks. Wells and Realtor Joseph Treves began researching other farmers’ markets while Mavromichalis and Chitwood worked with marketing director Ian Votteri, writer Michael Lucas and Alison Copeland of Venice Boulevard’s Rocker Surf shop to bring their farmers' market vision to Mar Vista.
Opening day was an early harbinger of the kind of enthusiasm and support Mar Vista locals would provide, but it took a few years to clearly convince them.
Ted Galvan, manager of the Santa Monica Pico Farmers’ Market, used his expertise to help open the market, but quickly returned to his duties in Santa Monica. A few months later, in December 2006, I came on as farmers’ market manager. It was my goal to grow the market into something Mar Vista could become proud of.
Since 2006, the market has evolved into two full blocks of California produce with a wide range of colorful and delicious fruits and vegetables and nuts and berries. It also boasts a block of varied prepared food vendors featuring French omelets and crepes; Argentine empanadas; Mexican tacos, tamales and chile rellenos; barbecue; Peruvian and Korean fare; and freshly baked bread, hummus and vegan offerings.
There is a cafe section at the western portion of Pacific and Grand View where people can sit, eat and listen to rotating DJs, and occasional live music while kids take part in the free art workshops featuring different projects each week. Recently, the market hosted the as part of a fundraiser for earthquake and tsunami relief for Japan.
The market has now grown from 15 to 70 stalls, with roughly a mixture of 60/40 agricultural/non-agricultural products. There is a great variety of organic produce as well as conventionally grown produce.
The most local farm to participate is the Venice High Learning Garden. The market recently sponsored the Learning Garden and students of the Venice High School Culinary Arts Academy to help them obtain their Agricultural Certificate from the County of Los Angeles, which makes them official farmers in the marketplace. They grow culinary herbs as a part of their curriculum and sell them once a month at the market. They will also be selling worm castings in the months to come.
In recent years, several new businesses have opened up on Venice and Grand View boulevards surrounding the market. LA Brakeless bike shop opened in 2008; market and kitchen co-owner Elliot Rubin can be found every Sunday at the market shopping for his farm to table cafe on Venice Boulevard, which opened in early 2009; opened in May 2009 on the corner of Grand View and is full on Sundays with folks combining shopping, brunching and grooming. shop opened its doors in August 2009; and opened initially at the farmers’ market to test the neighborhood waters before officially opening its doors in May 2010. Earl’s and the Venice Grind share patio space and together have created a pleasant place to dine or have coffee.
In July 2010, opened on Grand View and is bustling on Sunday mornings with a brisk brunch business. Now that there is more buzz, neighbors wait with great anticipation for , a 1950s style chophouse with a hint of Cajun flavor in the old Barton’s Cleaners building on Grand View, which was originally bought by Louie’s co-owner John Atkinson’s grandfather in the 1950s. Grand View market and deli is also scheduled to open up on Venice Boulevard later this year.
Mar Vista is a community with a vision and people here realize and accept that they must be hands-on when it comes to revitalizing the neighborhood. The Mar Vista Community Council, chaired by Albert Olson, is very active with outreach at the market. Its award-winning Green Committee co-chaired by Sherri Akers, Laura Bodensteiner and Jeanne Kuntz provide progressive information and methods that promote a sustainable lifestyle. Every Sunday they can be found dispensing information and advice to market-goers under their
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has been a strong and visible supporter of the market since its inception and can be spotted most Sundays talking to the community and shopping for carrot tops for his rabbits.
Sarah Auerswald, on her weekly blog Mar Vista Mom, has made a steadfast and enthusiastic contribution to the community by providing information about the neighborhood since March 2008. A feature of her blog is a weekly wrap up where she reports on the products and happenings at the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market.
Jeanne Kuntz and Christy Wilhelmi continue to promote the market and its wonderful produce and events at the Green Tent with their weekly columns on Mar Vista Patch.
There is a lot of talent and energy in Mar Vista and the farmers’ market has been able to showcase that talent, an important piece of making it an interesting and relevant place to locals as well as people in other neighborhoods.
The Mar Vista Farmers’ Market board of directors has changed slightly since its inception. Mavromichalis, Wells, Votteri and Treves remain on the board and have been joined by Andrew Basmajian, environmental outreach coordinator for the City of Santa Monica; Stephen Vodantis, education coordinator at Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains; and attorney Marissa Roman. The board is active and each member brings his or her own specialty to the vision of the market.
The Mar Vista Farmers’ Market hopes to grow its agricultural section, continue to provide a venue that fosters community development, health and nutrition, and preserve family farms.
Other plans include expanding existing support of the Neighborhood Youth Association after school snack and summer cooking class by continuing to provide fresh fruits and vegetables.
The market has also just completed a summer session with the NYA by providing a teacher to instruct neighborhood children about the farmers who grow the produce they eat that is then sold at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market, and showing them how to shop for delicious and nutritious food they can make themselves.
As September 1 draws near, the market is getting ready to be plastic bag free. You can find an "Exchange a Bag" bin under the Green Tent every Sunday where you can donate your extra resuable bags or grab one instead of using a plastic bag. You can also purchase reusable bags at the E.C. Creations booth at Grand View and Pacific boulevards across from the Green Tent. Don't forget to bring your reusable bags because there won't be any plastic bags come Labor Day.