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Feb 13, 2012 12:03 PM

SoPas Farmers Market

This is probably a generic farmer's market question so thanks for your patience. I live in Pasadena and am beginning a transition to a vegan/organic eating plan. Are fruits and vegetables offered at a farmer's market - the SoPas one is convenient - automatically more pesticide-free than at a grocery?

Price and taste wise do you think there's a big difference between farmer's market fruits and vegetabales and organic offerings at Whole Foods or Vons? Thanks so much.

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  1. Even at certified farmers markets, there isn't a specific policy about how produce is grown, and there have definitely been some well publicized scandals, even at certified farmers markets, where folks who don't actually operate farms were selling produce at markets. Especially if there's no sign which states that a stall's produce is organically grown or pesticide free, you are wise to talk to the farmers directly -- ask questions, build up a relationship (and trust your own senses). Use some common sense too. Many are not certified organic, but sell pesticide-free or "no-spray" fruits and vegetables. Personally, I'd rather support small scale farmers which are traditional or pesticide-free, rather than supporting certified organic produce from a giant agribusiness, but organic certification does provide some safeguards against fraud that don't really exist when you're just going on someone's word.

    The produce freshness and quality tends to vary between markets as well, and the less popular farmers markets tend to get lower quality vendors (and more crafts / prepared foods). I haven't been to the South Pas one for a while, but when I've gone in the past, the quality and selection there has not been the greatest, and the actual stands with fresh produce are fewer than those featuring prepared food and crafts stands. The best ones by far IMHO are Wed and Sat Santa Monica markets, and Sunday Hollywood market, though I know it's not as convenient as the ones closer by. Alhambra market on Sunday morning is Ok, especially for Asian vegetables.

    You may also want to do some research online about specific farmers market sellers, some of which have great reputations.

    I think you can get produce that's easily better than Whole Foods or Vons at the best farmers markets in the area, if you stick to stuff that's in season, but there's some trial and error involved in figuring out which farmers are good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: will47

      i like the thursday south pas fm, and also the saturday pasadena one. i've found their vendors to have a good selection; though my favorite sunday one besides hollywood is atwater- it's come a long way. i don't always pay attention to the signs, but go with my gut when purchasing an item. it's a good idea to ask, i just forget.

      1. re: will47

        @ will47: It obviously has been a while since you've looked in on the SoPas market. They do have more prepared-food vendors than before, especially if you count baked goods and other to-go items, but the ratio of fresh-produce vendors is around 2:1. My favorite fruit vendors are still in the same place (NE corner of Meridian and El Centro) as are the produce stands directly east from there, and at least the ones I patronize advertise as Certified Organic. I do trust the FM management to verify this; there was a lot of grumbling when the new regime took over, and they made some missteps, but all seems to be smooth now. And I'm delighted to be able to pick up wonderful oranges, fresh veges AND a grilled bratwurst if I want it!

        1. re: Will Owen

          The new management has really improved the market in the last few months, opened it up to EBT (which shows dedication to the community), and pruned back some of the prepared-food vendors. Phil McGrath, one of the very best farmers in Southern California, has a stall there now, which is probably reason enough to go; Healthy Family Farms chicken is there too.

          The organic laws were set up in a way that makes it very, very difficult for a small farmer to be technically compliant. The paperwork alone can require thousands of hours a year. But many of the farmers are essentially organic, if not certified, and they'll usually tell you the truth if you ask in a nice way.

      2. While I can't comment on certification at FMs, I don't completely trust what I buy from Whole Foods either but, if you shop farmer's markets, you will generally get produce grown in season which is a plus for so many reasons. I have shopped at the Eagle Rock, S Pas, Alhambra, Glendale and Pasadena markets as well as others not in the immediate area. I have been going since their inception. If I were you, I would just go and peruse. Get to know the vendors. Once you are familiar, you can go through pretty quickly. The Saturday morning Pasadena market is a ritual for me. I would rather buy straight from the grower and buy locally and stay in season if possible. The Sunday Hollywood and Wednesday Santa Monica markets are awesome but there is a major hassle factor between parking and getting there. I have actually turned around on the 10 frwy in frustration trying to go to the Wednesday Santa Monica Market but you will find things there that you will find no where else-provided the chefs don't get there first:) And yes, generally speaking, the produce DOES taste better.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Fru

          I'm just beginning to educate myself on the organic/vegan scene and I appreciate the advice. I see there's a new vegan restaurant in Pasadena on Fair Oaks Blvd. just south of Colorado Blvd. Has anyone been?

        2. Have you tried using the csa delivery on Saturdays in Pasadena? The small box is $22 and has great seasonal organic variety. I'm not vegan, but use a lot of it to make food for my twins. You can look up the details at for me cheaper than buying at the so pas farmer's mkt and more convenient,