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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
The Great Produce Hunt

For a complete current list of farmers' markets click on Certified Farmers Markets in Los Angeles County.


The Hollywood Media District's Certified Farmers' Market bills itself as "the freshest lunch-time destination." On a warm Friday morning in July the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed to Hollywood to investigate and report back to their eager and curious fans on one of the newest farmers' markets in Los Angeles County.

Z: When we decided to visit the Hollywood Media District Farmers' Market, we never thought that we would become aware of a daring rescue operation that was not in the script.

R: What a cast! The scene featured Stephen Whipple, market manager and the Indiana Jones of the Media District, hopping into his car and heading out to rescue the farmer's truck that had broken down on the way to the market. The distraught farmer was Cervantes who had picked a load of vegetables to bring to the market.

Z: You might say he was one of the stars because he was the only vendor with vegetables for the market that day. Would he make it to the market on time or at all?

R: Another featured player in this summer popcorn adventure was the ingenue, Connie DePaepe of SEE-LA (Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles), who played the stand-in by assuming the selling chores for Weiser Farms of Bakersfield so they could participate in the rescue. I should explain that SEE-LA is a "private non-profit community development corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life in the City of Los Angeles."

Z: As we strolled leisurely down Cole Street between Santa Monica and Lexington Avenue, we noticed that market patrons were unaware of the scrambling occurring behind the scenes. They, of course, were participating in this summer matinee adventure by nibbling on their popcorn from Frontier Kettle Korn.

R: Like many of the others, we were wondering why there were no vegetables at this market. Our first impression was that this was a small market. Vendors' tables were lined up in two parallel rows that did not take up the entire block. On the eastside of the street was the Hollywood Recreation Center that occupied an entire block.

Z: There were no bugles or cavalry charging in, but when we looked up, there was the Cervantes truck. The rescue effort had been a success. Cervantes quickly began unloading his truck and arranging vegetables on the tables surrounded by enthusiastic buyers.

Cherries R: We turned our attention away from the rescue to focus on summer fruits, but we were surprised to find apples in July. The ubiquitous Ha's Apple Farm from Tehachapi still had wax-free, mountain grown Fujis. They also displayed baskets of bright red cherries that the salesperson called Bing. They were lighter colored than the familiar Bings and were sweet and juicy.

Z: They also sold dried fruits that included Fuji apples and Asian Pears. I shouldn't forget to mention the apple cider vinegar, the delicious apple cinnamon syrup, and their assortment of apple jams and jellies.

R: Scattaglia Family Farms of Littlerock was the stone fruit heaven of this market. They had tasting samples of almost all of their fruit that included white and yellow nectarines, white and yellow peaches, apricots, Santa Rosa plums, and pluots (plum-apricot hybrid).

Z: Stone fruit heaven it was. We tasted and quickly decided we had to have some pluots, nectarines, and plums to travel home with us.

R: Two vendors offered a variety of citrus at the market. Bernard Ranches from Riverside sold Valencia oranges in three sizes: 4, 8, and 12 lb. bags. They also featured lemons and pink and white grapefruit.

Z: Sycamore Hills Farms of Fillmore also showed bags of Valencias and offered fresh-squeezed orange juice in sizes ranging from 1/2 pint to 1/2 gallon. They also sold sweet onions: red Bermudas and sweet Vidalias. Lemons, garlic, and avocados completed their display.

Gerbera R: When I heard that Z Ranch from Santa Barbara was at this market, I looked forward to those great melons. That day he sold his organic cantaloupes, honeydews, and watermelons. He also offered Galia melons, asparagus, and a baby lettuce mix. Zel said there was a little Galia melon that wanted to come home with us. The price was reasonable, the flavor exceptionally sweet.

Z: Seaside Farms from Cardiff had the flower scene all to themselves. That was Gerbera daisy day. Available for purchase were one-color bunches and mixed-color bouquets in almost any color you could imagine from orange to hot pink. They even had miniature Gerberas. They also displayed giant sunflowers and Stargazer lilies.

R: Jackie Brown gave us a tip we need to pass on to all flower lovers. Put a capful of hydrogen peroxide into the water to keep it clean and change the water every other day. "Flowers keep longer in clean water," she said. "Fresh cut flowers could last two weeks or more."

Z: I couldn't wait to get home with my sunflower bouquet and try the peroxide. Before that we wanted to speak to the Stephen Whipple, the market manager, but he was so involved in the Cervantes rescue, he couldn't stop for a brief interview.

R: Whipple and company had saved the day. The cavalry had rescued Cervantes and brought him and his golden vegetables to the market. As we were leaving we stopped to make our purchases. We noticed Connie DePaepe had not changed her costume, but had undertaken another role. She was helping Cervantes set up his table display. We should mention the Cervantes stand had a variety of squashes, green beans, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and a variety of hot chili peppers. Of course, I couldn't resist the delicious fresh white corn while Zel zeroed in on the squashes.

CornZ: We had spoken to Connie who was helping at the Weiser Farms stand while they went to tow Cervantes. Connie is office coordinator for SEE-LA. Along with the office work and assisting at this market, Connie manages the Hollywood-Sears Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons.

R: She and Maribel were selling the heirloom fingerling potato varieties and melons for Weiser. They had French fingerlings and Rose Finn Apple fingerlings. The melon selection included Galia and Sugar Queen. Maybe, we'll try a Sugar Queen next time.

Z: Two crafters displayed their wares that day: Beatnix greeting cards and Jewels for Your Soul. Gina Marks and her sister Camille Franklin create one-of-a-kind greeting cards using photography and art work. I liked the unique way they displayed their cards. They began with a 10-foot ladder that they sawed down to 7 feet. A tee shirt was stretched across the top of the ladder. The tee shirt read, " Beatniks." Below the name was the statement, "All profits go to animal charities." We learned they were planning to donate profits to animal rescue organizations.

R: I'm not into jewelry, but Zel was ogling the necklaces, earrings, and pins at Jewels for the Soul. Patricia Martinez told us she has been painting and creating jewelry for over 20 years. She turned her hobby into a business this year. She calls her acrylic and watercolor works Art for Your Spirit.

Z: We did catch up with Stephen Whipple the next day. Along with managing this market and the Culver City market, he is also assistant manager of the Westwood market. He admitted that this market was "going a little slow, in all honesty." "We'd love more community support," he added. The market began in March 2002 as a joint effort of SEE-LA and the Media District Business Improvement District.

SEE-LA was started by Pompea Smith who manages the highly successful Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sundays. SEE-LA has some lofty goals like developing, supporting, and operating community food distribution projects; supporting sustainable food choices and environmental conservation, providing information on health, nutrition, and agricultural issues; stimulating economic development to create jobs in the community; and promoting social and cultural development through public events, programs and forums.

R: Stephen is involved with those goals by making added efforts at community outreach. He has promoted the market with banners on Santa Monica Boulevard, flyers in the neighborhood, and efforts at local schools and at the recreation center. The heaviest promotion is at the film businesses in the area to encourage workers to shop and eat lunch at the market.

Z: Three food vendors were set up to provide lunches. Purchasers could sit under umbrellas at rectangular tables lining the center of the street. Unfortunately, no vegetarian offerings were in sight.

R: When we toured the market, the hours were 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. By the time this article appears, the hours will probably be later in the day, possibly 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Hollywood Media District Farmers' Market
Cole Ave. between Santa Monica Blvd. and Lexington Ave.
Fridays 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Reviewed August 2002

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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