It is called by many residents the neighborhood’s town square.
Located in the center of town, it spans several blocks and has steadily grown into a Sunday mid-morning venue where visitors and residents can obtain information on the date of the local green gardens tour, sample fresh fruits and vegetables or even chat with their local councilman.
In its fourth year in existence, the Mar Vista Farmers Market has become one of the “go-to places” in the Westside community of approximately 38,000.
“It has become a destination where people can go to meet up with other members of the community,” said Joseph Treves, a co-founder of the market. “It’s a place where you can not only buy fresh produce from a local vendor, but also meet your neighbors in a central meeting place.”
The open-air marketplace had its fourth anniversary this month and drew large crowds to the corner of Grand View and Venice boulevards, the northern entrance of the market.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who lives a few blocks north of the market, arrives every week for what he calls his “constituent hours” with his neighbors and residents of nearby communities who wish to see him.
“It has become a great democratic expression for the people of Mar Vista,” said Rosendahl, who also comes to the market to purchase fresh greens for his chickens. “It’s great for socializing as well as picking up wonderful organic produce.”
Treves gives credit to Lorraine Wells for bringing the idea of starting the market over six years ago to the Mar Vista Community Council.
“She asked for my help and we began to interview people who ran other farmers markets, and asked them about how to bring in vendors, logistics and what to expect from having a farmers market in our community,” Treves, a local realtor who lives in Mar Vista, recalled.
Soon a nonprofit group to continue the effort of opening the open-air market was established and Wells and Treves began to involve some of the neighborhood’s business community in planning the location of the market as well as its look.
“Many of the local businesses realized very quickly the value in having a farmers market,” Treves said.
Mar Vista Community Council Chair Albert Olson said former council chair Rob Kadota was instrumental in making the market what it is today.
“Rob had a vision of creating this community cornerstone and he was the person who was always there at the market in the beginning, which I think made the community aware that the community council would have a presence there,” Olson told The Argonaut.
Sherri Akers has been coming to what she calls the town square since its inception four years ago. Like many who live in Mar Vista, Akers has seen a revitalization of the shops and eateries along Grand View since the farmers market opened.
“It’s been great for the commercial area, and it’s amazing to see the number of new businesses that have opened there in the last few years,” Akers said.
Christina Davis, the president and chief executive officer of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, says a popular farmers market can stimulate business activity. On the streets that surround the Mar Vista market, approximately a half dozen new enterprises have opened since the market was created.
“Anything that draws customers to a commercial area can be an excellent asset for a community,” Davis said.
The community council has also been one of the driving forces behind the success of the market, said Rosendahl.
“They were among the first to appreciate the naturalness of the location as a meeting place, and now we have a great robust location where people get to interact with each other,” the councilman said.
Diana Rogers, the market manager, said that was her intention when she took over the duties from Ted Galvan, who oversaw the farmers market during its first six months.
“Mar Vista was yearning for some kind of identity when I got there, and when I came in it was my desire to create a sense of place and to use Grand View Boulevard as a transient town square for Mar Vista,” Rogers said.
The Green Committee, which has turned into one of the local council’s most active and recognized subsets, has had a booth next to the community council’s for a year, and the market has served as a launching pad for the sustainability movement that has put Mar Vista on the map as a regional leader in environmental causes.
Akers, a Green Committee co-chair, thanks Rogers for helping the group to have a presence at the local meeting place.
“It was Diana Rogers’ idea to expand the community council booth at the market so that the Green Committee could present a weekly guest,” Akers, one of the leaders of the highly successful Green Gardens Tour and the Wise Water Expo, said. “We have had over 50 guests in the first year and to have the market managed by an environmentalist is such a blessing.”
Treves said Rogers has continued to expand the market’s concept of bringing in quality vendors as well as keeping the town square feel.
“She’s been great,” he said. “We haven’t missed a beat with Diana.”
Rogers, who was awarded a city proclamation by Rosendahl earlier this month, views the popularity of the farmers market as a testament to the hard work that she and others have dedicated to the venue.
“I see myself as a steward for the community,” she said. “Having the Green Committee there was a no-brainer, and they have been an important asset to the neighborhood and the market.”
It has also been a place where local, county and national politicians have visited to interact with their constituents. City Councilman Bernard Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas, now the county supervisor who represents Mar Vista, stopped at the market in 2008 during their supervisorial campaign. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) and her Democratic primary challenger Marcy Winograd also joined shoppers at the market in the spring to campaign.
“I think that it’s a sign of our success that elected officials are coming to the market,” Rogers noted.
Treves looks at the farmers market as a community asset that has evolved naturally into a full-service venue for local residents, and says that is one of the most unique facets of the local marketplace.
“We are growing as a community, and the farmers market has helped us with that identity and that sense of community,” he said. “It really has become one of our best community assets.”