The past few years have been challenging economic times for so many of us. One bright spot on our local horizon has been the emergence and development of the local food community – whether it be new farmers and farmers markets, artisan bread, cheese, pasta and chocolate makers, restaurants, mobile food trucks, fabulous sweet shops and bakeries, locally made sauces, jams and even locally brewed and distilled beverages.
I was recently struck by the importance of our farmers markets during a recent visit to Los Angeles and visiting the farmers market that originally got me hooked on local food – the Hollywood Farmers Market. The weekly market draws over 8000 people together on a Sunday morning and sells everything from raw milk, six kinds of plums, buffalo burger, citrus to California sea bass and fresh oysters. When I was a regular patron, there were two blocks of produce, flowers and two blocks of prepared foods such as bread, honey, jams and some crafts folks. Now it’s at least 8 blocks of nothing but fresh and prepared food.
Like here, there are farms who have existed for several generations, but like us too there are so many new faces at the market. People are looking for a better, more meaningful and purposeful life and since the traditional means of making a living have become more precarious, many folks are taking the leap and living their dream of a creative, rooted life. Whether as a farmer/producer or as a creator of healthful and amazing food.
In the late eighties, Robbie Whitelaw, was a musical refugee from South Africa and part of the band Tribe After Tribe. They came to this country to become rock stars. It didn’t exactly work out, but Robbie is now an owner/operator of one of the Hollywood Farmer Markets new businesses, Raw Cane Super Juice. He and his partner started their business of organic juice and smoothies at the market and have been so successful that they now have a retail shop along Sunset Blvd and sell at other markets almost 7 days a week. There are always lines at his stall and my young friend Nate has to have one of the cane coconut juices every week. His juices are created with love and joy and you can taste it. It looks to me like he has finally won the golden ring.
Farmers Markets are vital to our growing local food movement. They are serving as incubators for new businesses and bringing back the mom and pop shop we had begun to lose during the last few decades of big box stores and suburban homogenization.
So, though we only have a few markets open over our winter season, please continue to visit and support our local businesses.
Robbie and his loyal customer Nate Newburn.