Flipping through the extension catalog of the local junior college I spotted a Saturday class on “Supporting Your Local Farmers Markets.” The price was right (free!) so I signed up.
For an hour, the very knowledgeable and soothing Diana Rogers, manager of the Mar Vista, CA farmers market, talked to the group mostly about what makes a farm certified—a lot of paperwork and documentation of acreage, number of trees, variety of crops, etc.; organic (even more paperwork) vs. non-organic (which frequently uses organic practices but doesn’t bother with the oppressive paperwork) and the perils of genetically modified organisms (GMOs—a very polarizing subject). All very interesting, though not necessarily news to those of us in the food business. Then Diana announced that there were two buses waiting outside, so about fifty of us shuffled out and piled on like lemmings. By this time we were all getting to know one another and our eating habits—vegetarian, vegan, only consuming organic foods and various combinations thereof.
After about 10 minutes heading east on the freeway, I turned to one of the vegans and asked, “Where are we going?” I knew the Encino and Santa Monica farmers markets took place on Sundays and Wednesdays respectively and for all I knew we were being kidnapped en masse. Finally, someone said that we were headed to the Burbank farmers market.
If you haven’t been to downtown Burbank for a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a manageable size and borderline charming. There’s a very attractive art deco city hall and a small town feel, at least on a Saturday morning. The Burbank farmers market is in the parking lot next to City Hall. It’s fairly small as farmers markets go, but at 30 years in existence very well established. There’s something about a farmers market setting that makes everything look so appealing and appetizing. I bought glossy Blue Lake green beans and asparagus thinner than pencils, hardly exotic, but so tempting in that milieu. There was a very long line to purchase eggs. Granted, they were organic and from free-range, pasture-raised and presumably pampered hens, but after all, just eggs. But again, in that environment, as coveted as jewels.
That’s what’s so great about farmers markets. The most mundane produce, being sold by the people that grow it in a setting that showcases the beauty of the agricultural arts. If one didn’t have it already, one develops an appreciation for these fruits, vegetables and other comestibles as objects of glamour and inspiration.
We all trundled back to our buses, loaded down with our prizes and a sense of culinary possibility. And maybe the thought that Burbank might be worth exploring further.