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Altadena Farmers Market

by Pasadena Independent
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Educating on Domestic Technology

 

By May S. Ruiz

 

It all started when Joseph Shuldiner taught classes at the Altadena Urban Farmers Market at the Zane Grey Estate in Altadena. This underground market became a means for growers in the area to share information and exchange goods. Somehow, Los Angeles County officials got wind of this activity and took it as a sign that there was a need for a community market. They approached Joseph about starting a Certified Farmers Market in the park and on May 30, 2012, he established the Altadena Certified Farmers Market.

Elizabeth Bowman, writing her thesis to earn her Master’s degree on Urban Sustainability from Antioch University, heard about Joseph’s program. A young woman with a mission to devise ways to get locally grown food to people in the community, she joined this urban farming project.

Meanwhile, Salim Moore, interning for Pasadena Magazine, was researching for a story he was writing on “Flour & Tea.” He was reading back issues of the publication “to get a feel for their writing style” and ran across Joseph’s Institute of Domestic Technology. He immediately sent an email to Joseph, and the rest is history.

It was serendipity. Three individuals coming from different background and circumstances happened upon each other born out of one concept.

Elizabeth served as Assistant Secretary of Urban Farming. She helped backyard growers understand the various regulations and certification requirements of the Department of Agriculture and L.A. County. She was also instrumental in securing certification for a handful of backyard farmers with L.A County’s agricultural commissioner.

The Farmers Market found a sponsor in the Altadena Heritage, a non-profit, volunteer-based advocacy organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and raising awareness of the rich architectural, environmental, and cultural heritage of this foothill community. Every Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. in spring/summer, and from 3 to 7 p.m. during fall/winter, at the Loma Alta County Park, about half a dozen urban farmers, a few regional organic farms, and prepared food vendors set up shop in this bustling, albeit quaint setting.

Gypsy Eats and The Paella Artisan chef prepares food at the Altadena Farmers Market. - Photo by May Ruiz

Gypsy Eats and The Paella Artisan chef prepares food at the Altadena Farmers Market. – Photo by May Ruiz

Joseph conducted a “healthy snacks for kids” demonstration at the Aveson Charter School opening. Last summer, he and Elizabeth organized food demos with their market vendors.

Salim served as facilitator for the market, and provided such services as marking designated areas for each vendor, assisting farmers put up stalls, making sure there is electricity powering the area, and helping out in the actual selling at various booths.

Some changes took place in the meantime. The Altadena Community Garden assumed sponsorship from the Altadena Heritage. Last year, Elizabeth Bowman took over from Joseph Shuldiner as Manager of the Altadena Farmers Market, and Salim Moore moved up to the spot she vacated. Together, Elizabeth and Salim continue Joseph’s legacy of making farmers market food more accessible, cooking with raw ingredients, stretching the food budget. They show people how they can feed a family of four on a $25 budget using fresh, locally grown produce. Joseph was the first participant in the $25 Challenge.

As the Altadena Farmers Market heads into its fourth year of operation since its founding, it is thriving as more urban growers and regional organic farms establish their business there. Vendors like Etheridge Organics from Orosi, Chuy’s Berry Farm of Arroyo Grande, and Bliss Avocados in Carpinteria join the cooperative of backyard farmers of Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Hacienda Heights including: Whisper Farms (Altadena); Chili Lily Garden (Altadena); Reedley Street Farm (Panorama City); Nancy’s Garden (Hacienda Heights); and Spade & Seeds (South Pasadena).

In the works is the participation of Collard Greens Jr. Gardeners’ Club, an organization offering kids in Northwest Pasadena hands-on opportunity to learn about gardening, arts, science, health and fitness, and community awareness. They plan to demonstrate kid-friendly recipes with collard greens at the Farmers Market.

Occupying the rear area of the marketplace are prepared food vendors like Shucked Oyster Bar serving up oysters on the half shell and selling clams, mussels, and prepared fish; CA Chef’s Center preparing Japanese rice balls; Coldwater Canyon Provisions in Los Angeles, selling preserves from farmers market produce; Gypsy Eats and The Paella Artisan cooking hot foods; Morning Glory Confections, based in Echo Park, offering brittles, brownies, and cookies; and Granola Mama’s Handmade, a Los Angeles-based cottage food producer. There’s even Ben Potter Knife Sharpening, an Altadena shop.

It is a true community endeavor – food crafters use produce and ingredients they buy from the urban farmers in the other tents. There is a palpable feeling of congeniality – regular customers come up and chat with vendors, stall owners visit with other farmers. A lot of ideas-swapping goes on throughout the afternoon. Performers provide music later on and further enliven the mood at the market. The general atmosphere evokes an image of times past when life was simpler, when the food on the table were made from ingredients freshly picked from the garden and were shared with neighbors.

Today the Altadena Farmers Market continues to be a flourishing endeavor. It has evolved into a true reflection of its entrepreneurial manager, Elizabeth Bowman – young and vibrant, with a definitely contagious positive outlook!

Salim Moore and Elizabeth Bowman at the Altadena Farmers Market. - Photo by May Ruiz

Salim Moore and Elizabeth Bowman at the Altadena Farmers Market. – Photo by May Ruiz

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