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Category: David Karp

SEE-LA hires new executive director

The nonprofit organization that runs the Hollywood farmers market and six others, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, has hired a new executive director

The nonprofit organization that runs the Hollywood farmers market and six others, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, has hired a new executive director.

James W. Haydu, who is currently chief development officer of the Mar Vista Family Center and who worked from 2006 to 2011 as director of communications, policy and marketing for Pike Place Market in Seattle, will start Aug. 27, according to a SEE-LA news release.

The position became vacant in April when Pompea Smith, who founded the Hollywood market in 1991 and served for many years as SEE-LA’s executive director, was fired by the group's board.

This came after a tumultuous year in which the organization faced financial difficulties and a struggle over street closures with the neighboring Los Angeles Film School, which threatened to force the Hollywood market to move from its site. (Earlier this month, the Hollywood market received its street-closure permit from the city, so it is secure in its location for the next year, Michael Woo, chairman of SEE-LA’s board, said in a recent phone conversation.)

A SEE-LA board committee reviewed 80 applicants before selecting Haydu, who offered experience in both the farmers market and nonprofit worlds.

Haydu "combines the main qualities we were looking for: ability to lead and manage an energetic staff, financial acumen, expertise in nonprofit fundraising, a vision about the future of food and markets, and a passion for bringing farmers and urban consumers together," Woo said in the press release.

Haydu, 44, was born and raised in the Central Valley and graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in liberal arts and political science. He succeeds Brenda Zamzow-Frazier, a consultant who served as SEE-LA’s interim head for the last four months.


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-- David Karp

Photo: The Hollywood farmers market on July 22. Credit: David Karp

Pompea Smith is out at Hollywood Farmers Market


Pompea Smith, who has led the Hollywood Farmers Market since she founded it 21 years ago, was fired Tuesday night. A statement issued by the board of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, the nonprofit organization that runs the market and seven others in Los Angeles, reads: “The board of directors has decided that, in the best interests of SEE-LA and the communities it serves, it is time for a change of leadership.”

The 12-member board has appointed Brenda Zamzow-Frazier, a consultant, to serve as interim chief executive until a search for a permanent head is concluded, the statement added. Smith, who is in her early 70s, founded the Hollywood market in 1991 and established SEE-LA in 1994. Renowned for its wide selection of produce and lively street scene, the Hollywood Farmers Market is the largest in Los Angeles, with about 150 vendors.

As its neighborhood gentrified over the last two decades, the Hollywood market’s financial success enabled SEE-LA to subsidize its venues in low-income areas such as Watts and Central Avenue. The tough economy of the last few years challenged this model, however, according to an analysis sent to the board in early March by Essergy Consulting, which added that “SEE-LA may require … a more transformational and inclusive management style.” The document also mentioned the need to attract “a younger, ‘hipper’ crowd” and to make more use of social media.

After leading the Hollywood market to victory last July in a struggle over a street closure with the Los Angeles Film School, Smith was surprised that the board would let her go. “I don’t know why they took this turn,” she said. “They could have given more guidance.” Michael Woo, chair of SEE-LA’s board, declined to elaborate on the reasons for the change, but did say that “it was an extremely difficult decision.”


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-- David Karp

Photo: Pompea Smith. Credit: David Karp.

Market Watch by David Karp: The sweet smell of Mara des Bois strawberries

Sherry Yard Walking through the Santa Monica farmers market early one recent morning, I noticed Sherry Yard, executive pastry chef of Spago, carrying a flat of strawberries that looked oddly different than any I had seen there before. Even from 10 feet away, they seemed smaller and rounder than conventional strawberries, with prominent seeds and an unusual carmine-orange color. As I wondered what they might be, suddenly the breeze shifted my way, wafting an intense aroma of wild strawberries, and I knew.

"They're …" I started to say, my mouth agape, hardly believing.

"… Mara des Bois!" said Yard in the exultant tone of one who has just scored. From the name, one might think that Mara des Bois is a variety of wild strawberry, called fraises des bois in French, or perhaps a hybrid of wild and garden strawberry, given that its size is between the two. Actually,

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Two new farmers markets in town: Sherman Oaks and Temple City

Spring always brings a new crop of farmers markets, as operators time openings to capitalize on the seasonal abundance and diversity of produce. Two new venues, in Sherman Oaks and Temple City, offer good selections of vendors under capable managers. They're not as large as longer-established markets, of course, but should flourish and grow if supported by their communities. Read more in this week's Market Watch report by David Karp, and check out his photo gallery look at the freshest produce arriving at local farmers markets.


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Baba raspberries grown by Chuy Berry Farms in Arroyo Grande, at the Sherman Oaks farmers market. (David Karp / April 16, 2011)

What would you do with 600 homeless tomato plants?

That's the dilemna Sabrina Bohn faced last May. So she hit the road and found a home in Santa Paula for her farm, which now raises a wide range of specialty vegetables.

Bohn, above, and her partners have made such impressive progress that her Shear Rock Farm is one of the most promising newcomers to farmers markets recently, for the freshness, variety and presentation of its produce.

Read more in this week's Market Watch column by David Karp, and check out his photo gallery of what's arriving fresh at farmers markets this week.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch 

Photo: Sabrina Bohn of Shear Rock Farm in Santa Paula stands amid rows of Russian and curly kale. Credit: David Karp / For The Times

Seedless cherimoya? Not quite yet

“Seedless cherimoya, the next banana?” read the headlines of a story that has circulated on the Web since Monday, referring to the discovery of a gene for seedlessness in a fruit related to cherimoya by Charles Gasser, professor of plant biology at UC Davis, and three Spanish colleagues. The prospect sounds inviting, because the cherimoya is supremely delicious, but contains numerous hard black seeds (whence its name, which means “cold seeds” in Quechua, the Inca language).

Seedless cherimoyas have been around for decades, but have not become common, either in home gardens or commercial orchards, because the trees are not very productive; the seeds are necessary for normal fruit development, so seedless fruits are small and misshapen. Researchers in Japan have also figured out how to make standard varieties of cherimoya seedless by controlling pollination and applying natural plant growth hormones called gibberellins, but this approach has not proved commercially practical.

Gasser’s group does not yet have a seedless cherimoya, but a seedless form of a more tropical relative, sugar apple. This was found in Thailand and brought to Spain, said Gasser on a recent visit to his office. Seedless sugar apples are common in backyards, but previous varieties have been malformed, with mediocre flavor. This one, however, is full size, with good flavor, said Gasser, whose article appeared online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; the seed coats appear to develop just far enough to induce the fruit to develop normally, but no seeds develop.

His colleagues in Spain, where cherimoyas are grown commercially, are working to breed a seedless cherimoya by crossing their seedless sugar apple with a normal cherimoya. The trait for seedlessness is recessive, so it will take several generations, but Gasser is confident that a seedless cherimoya-like hybrid will result. (This is all through conventional breeding, not genetic modification.)

Most interestingly, Gasser has identified the same mutant gene for seedlessness in Arabidopsis, a species of cress that is the standard model organism used for studying plant biology. Because sugar apples and cherimoyas are in the magnolia family, which is among the most primitive of flowering plants, “that means that we can probably control this gene to induce seedlessness in basically all flowering plants,”  Gasser said.

Cherimoyas, which are cultivated on about 300 acres in California, will likely become more popular if seedless varieties become available. But they probably won’t ever be as abundant as bananas and pineapples, two other fruits that lost their seeds during domestication. Cherimoyas require labor-intensive hand-pollination and are strongly climacteric, passing quickly from firm to ripe to squishy and brown, so they’ll probably remain an expensive delicacy best suited for local sale.

-- David Karp

Photo: Thai seedless sugar apple, related to cherimoyas, are being used by a team of Spanish researchers to hybridize a seedless cherimoya-like fruit. Credit: Emilio Guirado

Your 'mystery' ingredients: A look at the CSA concept

For several decades, certified farmers markets have been the primary business model to satisfy the growing demand for fresh, locally grown produce, but in the last several years an alternative model -- community-supported agriculture (CSA) -- has spread rapidly in Southern California. The consequences for consumers, growers and farmers markets seem mostly positive so far, but the potential for controversy is also starting to emerge.

The CSA concept, which began in Europe and Japan in the 1960s and took root in the United States in the 1980s, calls for consumers to buy a share in the production of a farm and receive a box of produce in return. Many variations exist: in the size of the box (for one to six people), the frequency of shipments (typically weekly), the duration of the plan (monthly, seasonally, yearly) and whether the farm buys from or links up with other growers to diversify its offerings (a vegetable farm often supplements with fruit, for example). Most CSAs drop off the boxes on set days at locations such as schools, businesses and farmers markets, but some deliver directly to homes.

Many consumers are attracted by the direct connection to a particular farm and its growing practices; to encourage this link most CSAs offer farm visits and tours to their members. The CSA box can also be convenient to those who lack time to shop at farmers markets. Vendors say their prices are about the same or a little lower for CSA shipments compared with farmers markets, and definitely lower than for equivalent items at supermarkets.

On the other hand, to the extent that they no longer shop at farmers markets, CSA customers miss out on socializing with other shoppers and farmers, which is a major attraction for many market-goers. In addition, the CSA model limits choice because CSAs usually provide a set box of what's in season on their farm. Read more in this week's Market Watch report.

-- David Karp

Photo: California-grown kiwis. Credit: David Karp

A sweet citrus tease

Is this the most delicious citrus fruit you've never tasted? Find out Thursday when David Karp writes about his 12-year love affair with the mysterious and elusive Dekopon. And keep an eye out at a store near you.

(Photo by David Karp)

Santa Monica's ban on plastic bags: What it means for you

The Santa Monica City Council approved an ordinance Jan. 25 prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic carryout bags for most purposes. This will significantly affect the city's four certified farmers markets when it takes effect Sept. 1, but vendors and customers are just beginning to understand the ramifications. Click here to read David Karp's weekly Market Watch report on what it all means.

Your guide to grapefruit

Do you like your grapefruit sweet? Or tart? Or sweet tart? Regardless: Choosing quality fruits depends on understanding the calendar of varieties and growing areas, which may seem inscrutable to the uninitiated but is easy to learn. Let columnist David Karp be your guide in this week's Market Watch report:

Photo: Old-crop pink grapefruit (exact variety uncertain), very sweet. David Karp


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.