South Pasadena’s award-winning Farmers’ Market turned 20 on Thursday, celebrating the festive occasion with live music, a magic show, speeches from elected officials and plenty of kind words for the city’s longtime popular attraction.
Those selling products along with customers buying fruits vegetables and prepared foods throughout the years gave the weekly stop for many a thumbs up on why the market at Mission Street and El Centro Street has been such a big part of their life since its beginning.
“It’s a great market,” said Laurie Wheeler, the executive director for the local Chamber of Commerce, which manages it for the city. “We’re really excited that all these people come every week to pick up produce and other foods.”
She says it’s also important for residents and visitors to support farmers who visit South Pasadena from far and near each week.
Lending to the 20th anniversary activities were a group of Girl Scouts, who were handing out free reusable produce bags as part of a Silver Award project, Wheeler noting: “It’s great for the planet.”
She thanked the “wonderful farmers and vendors” for making the commitment to being a part of the market every week.
Named Readers Choice by many news organizations over the years, the market is known for it’s “Fresh California-Grown Produce in Your Own Back Yard,” as pointed out on its website. The market boasts being open Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. (7 p.m. during the winter) rain or shine except Thanksgiving.
“I think it’s the combination of the beautiful location,” coupled with an array of solid food choices, answered Wheeler when asked what makes the South Pasadena Farmers’ Market one of the best around.
It’s proximity, she pointed out, to the Gold Line metro rail train station next door, makes it easy for people to hop on and off. Total it up and it’s a win-win for the vendors and market-goers.
“We’ve got a great selection of food, produce, great farmers and vendors,” Wheeler continued. “We have a good variety of all kinds of produce. We have organic and non-organic. We have prepared foods that are really popular.”
A fun atmosphere with a mix of music, from those strumming a guitar under a shady tree to others serenading crowds seated around tables enjoying dinner on summer nights, add significantly to the market’s splendor.
“It’s just a wonderful place to come and hang out,” Wheeler added. “I think all farmers markets have something special and I think one of the special things here is South Pasadena. We’ve got such a beautiful community. You can take advantage of it. Thank you to the community. If the community didn’t come out and support this, the farmers wouldn’t be here. They wouldn’t make enough money to make it worth their while.”
Many of the farmers travel long distances to sell their fruits and vegetables, some making a long trek from the central valley and northern regions of the state.
A reoccurring message from those coming from farms on Thursday was the importance of passing along a “thank you” to the large number of customers who support them each week. In return, those buying the products were grateful for the farmers who call South Pasadena’s market among their favorite stops.
Luis Rueda of Sun Coast Farms out of Lompoc paid tribute saying, “I like the hours and the people and other farmers. I really like this market. It’s a nice location. It’s really great.”
A longtime favorite vendor for many who stroll through the market is Bill’s Bees, which sells honey and other items. Behind the booth was Matt Mazzocchi, who agreed the South Pasadena market has “a friendly bunch of people.”
What keeps the weekly attraction around for 20 years are “a lot of good farmers and it being a night market,” he said. “There aren’t too many evening markets, so I think that is a plus.”
Mazzocchi was a customer at South Pasadena Farmers Market for eight years before he started selling Bill’s Bee’s products 12 years ago, noting that the honey comes from Little Tujunga Canyon, headed east off the 210 Freeway.
Jarry Glidden makes the short trip from Pasadena to get her farmers’ market fix. “Good for them,” she said upon hearing it was the 20th year for the city’s market and that a celebration was underway. She particularly likes the tomatoes from Carlsbad.
“If it isn’t, it comes pretty close,” said Glidden after being asked if South Pasadena’s market is the best around.
One person going only by “Zoei,” comes to the market maybe once a month from nearby Eagle Rock to pick out her produce, enjoying the “community aspect and good food,” she said. “We have a descent selection of good vendors who are prideful of what they do. It’s in a nice location and time if day.”
She enjoys taking advantage of the good vibe and feel of the relaxed, easy-going friendly confines.
Throughout the year, the market provides free public events including as the health & wellness festival, annual bike clinic, a healthy happy Halloween, a holiday tree lighting celebration, and more. Weekly, there’s a Community Corner for local nonprofits to share knowledge about themselves, including South Pasadena Tournament of Roses, South Pasadena Arts Council, the Water Council and other organizations.
One South Pasadenan, who comes each week for the popcorn, called it the best market in Southern California, explaining, “Everybody is so friendly. It’s small enough where you can get to know people and there’s no stress in terms of parking. We see people from the neighborhood. It’s a good time to catch up.”
He gave a shout out to the “chicken guy,” a popular stop for many looking for a hot meal. “The garlic chicken is outstanding!”
Grant and Emily Smith were not aware that the farmers’ market was enjoying a milestone birthday, just moving into town about five months ago. “It seems family friendly,” said Emily, Grand adding, “It’s a fun atmosphere.”
South Pasadena’s Farmers’ Market is loaded with seasonal fruits and vegetables, along with ready-to-eat food items for people on the go.
Alexander Castillo, who drove in from Harbor City, was busy selling tamales, as a long line began to form in front of his cart.
Like other vendors, he was quick to point out “the people” when asked what he likes most about South Pasadena’s market.
“We’ve been here all these years and seen kids grow up, and now they’re adults,” said Castillo. “I want to thank everyone for coming every Thursday. It’s nice to see them come here and spend some time with their family.”