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Celebrating 30 years of Southern California farmers markets

July 30, 2009 |  5:33 pm


Every Thursday, downtown workers, jurors on break and other hungry people converge on the lawn outside City Hall for a popular farmers market that includes produce and lots of lunch choices. There's often music, and people sit at tables to talk and eat.

Not so remarkable, right? After all, there are about 4,700 farmers markets in the country.

But it was 30 years ago that the first market opened in Southern California, in a church parking lot in Gardena. Its organizer, Vance Corum, said he had 10 farmers lined up. Only four arrived. But Corum and the farmers persevered, and the market remains a thriving institution.

A celebration of those three decades of markets is planned for Sept. 3, and Corum plans to be there, along with city dignitaries and some of those first intrepid farmers. Paula Daniels, a city Public Works commissioner, said the celebration will include chef demonstrations, tastings and other events. Farmers from other Los Angeles-area markets are being invited to set up shop for the day.

The first five markets Corum organized were sponsored by the Interfaith Hunger Coalition, a project of the Southern California Ecumenical Council.

"We were really addressing questions of food access, because at that time some of the supermarkets had fled the inner city," Corum told The Times at the 25th anniversary.

"At the same time, we were also very aware of the plight of farmers. That was the start of the tough times in the farm economy around the country. Things were tight."

-- Mary MacVean

(Photo of farmers market strawberries by Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Farmersmarketteaser Visit The Times' new interactive database of Southern California Farmers Markets to explore your local market. We hope you join the conversation, sharing your favorite markets and vendors and helping us make this the most comprehensive resource for local farmers markets.