Farmers Market turns 75

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Two-fisted eating at Bennett’s Ice Cream. (Actually, he was holding the second cone for his mom while she pays.)

You’ve all been to the Farmers Market in L.A., right? Third and Fairfax? I certainly hope so, since you’ve had 75 years, as of today, to get there.

Yep, the Farmers Market opened on July 14, 1934, when 18 vendors parked their trucks on a large vacant lot that had been a dairy farm and an oil field. The market became a popular place and food stands sprouted, eventually rendering the farm part a rather small aspect compared to the international food offerings.

Today the market is somewhat overshadowed by the Grove shopping center next door, and I miss the days you could park for free on the acres of free asphalt. That was too good a deal to last, but at least the market survives. And the incursion of chains seems to have stopped at Johnny Rockets, Starbucks and Pinkberry.

Hearing about the anniversary — activities are planned today and Thursday; read more at www.farmersmarketla.com – I went to the market on Saturday with a friend. Busy as ever, it remains one of the great crossroads of L.A.

We split an oyster and shrimp po’boy from Gumbo Pot and a shrimp cocktail from Tusquella’s and got ice cream cones at Bennett’s. We also ogled the vintage toys at Shine Gallery, the imported and specialty groceries at Monsieur Marcel’s and the hot sauces at, well, whatever the hot sauce place is called. Oh, to have gone to Bob’s Doughnuts, Patsy’s Pizza, Bryan’s Barbecue, Singapore’s Banana Leaf and any number of other delectable eateries.

Do you have a favorite Farmers Market routine or memory?

* The LA Times wrote a long, very good feature on the Market.

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  • Shirley Wofford

    David, I think it is hard to believe, as long I have lived in CA, but until about four years ago, I had never been to the Farmers Market.

    I went with a couple neighbors by Metrolink, and I would like to go again. One visit was not long enough to take everything in.

    It was Christmas season, and there was a lot of Merry going on with the trolley rides, decorations and music, etc. The Grove was fairly new, and we ate at the Cheesecake Factory. In retrospect, I wish we had eaten at one of the many food stands at the FM.

    It is very easy to go to the FM by public transportation if one, like me, does not like to drive the freeways. Board the Red Line subway at Union Station and travel to Wilshire and Western, which is the end of the line traveling in that direction. Then, board an MTA Rapid Bus [Route 720 -- DA] going west on Wilshire. The Rapid bus is better than the regular MTA buses because they have a transponder which allows them to go right through the red lights. Get off the Rapid Bus at Fairfax.

    If one wants to walk to Fairfax and Third, it takes about 20 minutes — or you can board another MTA bus at that corner, going north to the Farmers Market, which gets to the FM in about five minutes. [The Rapid bus 780 makes that trip. -- DA]

    If one is confused about bus numbers, etc., information is readily available at the MTA building, which is adjacent to the Union Station’s east portal. (The MTA building is nice for a break — clean restrooms and a cafeteria where you can sit with coffee and plot your day. It is closed on weekends.)

    I am a little behind on my transportation information, and I don’t know if the free transfer system is still valid with a Metrolink ticket.

    [I believe it's valid until a new all-access pass comes online, but that's unconfirmed. You ride the rails more than me so you'll have to keep us informed. As for getting to the Farmers Market, my drive out there took 90 minutes and wasn't as pleasant as the 60-minute trips I remember. Your suggestion about the bus to take to Fairfax -- and my own research, which I inserted into your note -- makes it more likely that I'll try train/subway/bus next time, and save the parking fee to boot. I'm more likely to head out there knowing I don't absolutely have to drive. -- DA]

  • Matt Swift

    There is a great write-up on this in the latest issue of the AAA magazine, Westways. Just another perk of a great southern California institution.

    [I agree. I neglected to say that's how I heard about the anniversary. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    David, I feel I should correct a statement I made about the Rapid Buses. I got to thinking that it would not be true that they could go right through the red lights. I think what the transponder does, is keep the green lights from turning red, until the bus passes through.

    [I believe you're right. -- DA]

  • Bob House

    One of the few (relatively) unspoiled examples left of the (relatively innocent) paradise that was Southern California into the ’50s — imagine what it was like with 1/3 the people. My first visit as a child was an “Old LA” classic — it included a side trip to my hosts’ relatives’ home. As the car turned the corner at Sunset and Doheny, the dad of the family pointed out the wall where Mickey Cohen was gunned down a few years before (he survived).

    From my perspective, you managed to sum up what’s wrong with modern life in one phrase: “Today the market is somewhat overshadowed by the Grove shopping center next door . . .”

    [There's an LA Times feature on the market today that uses one phrase to take an intriguingly different view: that the Grove makes the market "more authentically itself in the shadow of J. Crew and the American Girl stores." Hmm. -- DA]

  • Don J

    Actually I’ve found it quicker/easier to ride the Red Line-North Hollywood Line, get off on Hollywood & Highland & hop the MTA’s #217 Fairfax…the bus stop is just steps from the subway entrance. In about 10 minutes you’re right outside the Farmers Market. Our favorite restaurant there is the Dupar’s where James Dean had his last lunch (I heard they removed the plaque that used to adorn his booth).

    [Thanks, Don. I'll try that route sometime too. And I like Du-par's too. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    Don J’s route sounds like a little more subway riding and a little less bus riding than my route. When we get some cool weather, I will try that too.