They are ubiquitous throughout Los Angeles and most Westside communities have one. Now, Del Rey is seeking to join the rest of its counterparts by establishing its own farmers market.
Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Eric DeSobe says the idea of bringing a farmers market to the community has been “floating around for a while” and recently picked up steam.
Helen Kim, who owns and manages multiple farmers markets, made a presentation to the neighborhood council’s Land Use and Planning Committee last month, which recommended that the full council approve its motion to bring a farmers market to Del Rey.
“This can really help put the community on the map,” DeSobe said.
To date, Del Rey’s biggest claim to fame has been its annual Del Rey Day. Recently, the Del Rey Art Walk has begun to attract visitors and the Del Rey Cup, a soccer tournament held in the Mar Vista Gardens, has also been viewed by some residents as an event that can better associate them with the community.
The proposed site for the market is Del Rey’s lone park, Glen Alla, at the corner of Alla Road and Glencoe Avenue, and the hours would be from 2 to 7 p.m. Fridays, said Kim.
DeSobe thinks the proposal has merit, given that the park received a facelift with the construction of a universally accessible playground 18 months ago that allows children with disabilities to enjoy the facilities.
“Since the playground opened, (the park) has become the hub of Del Rey,” DeSobe said. “I think it makes sense to set up shop there once a week.”
DeSobe also believes that a synergy could be created with the nearby Marina Marketplace, which is bringing in a number of amenities and already has two movie theaters as well as shopping and dining.
“People could go to the farmers market and start their weekend there with us and then move over to the Marina Marketplace,” the president said.
Kim said she was approached by representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to see if she would help run a farmers market on the Westside.
“They were looking for another location,” she said.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Del Rey, likes the idea of a place where his constituents can convene in one area and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at an open-air market.
“I think it would be sensational,” he said. “It will add a new energy and it could bring the community together, as it did for Mar Vista.”
The Mar Vista Farmers Market is in many ways a classic open-air marketplace: it has eclectic vendors, several food and drink stalls as well as the aforementioned fruits and vegetables.
But for Mar Vista residents and others who come from neighboring communities to shop there, it is much more than a market.
“I call it out transient town square,” said Diana Rodgers, who manages the Mar Vista market.
The market has a number of special events each month, including music and performances. It is also the place where an anti-pollution organization that is battling the Santa Monica Airport, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, meets.
Rosendahl, who lives in Mar Vista, also hosts what he calls “constituent hours” at the market every Sunday when he comes to purchase green vegetables and has conversations with constituents who might not have the opportunity to see him during the week.
The Mar Vista Community Council also has a booth at the market.
“(The market) has served Mar Vista extremely well,” said Rodgers.
Mar Vista resident Sherri Akers agrees wholeheartedly. It was at the market that she learned about a movement that she is now so heavily involved in and she credits Rodgers and the market for bringing her together with like-minded local residents.
“I had never heard of the Mar Vista Community Council, or even of the neighborhood council system,” Akers, the co-chair of the community council’s Green Committee, recalled. “That is where I met Jeanne (Koontz, the committee co-chair) and without the Mar Vista Farmers Market, I would never have known about the Green Committee.”
The committee has been the incubator for many of Mar Vista’s green initiatives like the annual Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase and has led the community to become recognized as a citywide leader in sustainability.
“The committee absolutely would not be impactful as it is without the farmers market,” Akers added. “The market has turned Mar Vista into a small town for us. We even hold our monthly meetings (there).”
Former Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Mark Redick says he is a fan of farmers markets and at one time his council considered having one on the grassy portion of land on Culver Boulevard between Braddock Drive and Centinela Avenue. However, he believes that the time slot that is being proposed could limit access to the park by parents seeking to take their children to Glen Alla.
“Most farmers markets are held in the morning,” he noted. “If you start at 2 p.m., you’re limiting your customer base.”
Westchester, Mar Vista, Venice, Santa Monica and Playa Vista all hold their open-air markets during morning hours and typically wrap up by 2-3 p.m.
Rodgers said as in real estate, location is quite important for a farmers market. “It’s best to have a place that is accessible and visible,” she recommended.
Rosendahl said there was only one potential challenge if the market is at Glen Alla. “The only issue would be parking,” he said.
Rodgers said in order to bring a farmers market to any community, it is necessary to obtain an agricultural permit as well as a health permit. “You should also have the support of the community,” she said.
Rodgers said establishing new farmers markets is not as easy as it once was due to an over saturation of open-air marketplaces. “In 2000, there were 300 statewide,” she said. “In 2012, there are over 800.”
DeSobe envisions a Del Rey Farmers Market having a similar effect on his community as Mar Vista’s has had on its residents.
“It can help show that Del Rey is an urban community and help to showcase Glen Alla Park,” he said.
The local council will vote on the proposal Thursday, June 14.