Organic and handcrafted goods everywhere at local farmers’ market
■ By Mark Lentine / Contributed
Historical records show that as early as July 1806 President Thomas Jefferson bought beef, eggs and assorted vegetables in a Georgetown market.
For generations of Los Angelinos, the term “farmers’ market” conjures up thoughts of the historic Gilmore Farmers’ Market on 3rd and Fairfax Street. But here in the San Jacinto/Hemet area, we have our own thriving farmers’ market – the San Jacinto Certified Farmers’ Market (SJCFM) – and this market is expanding.
“I grew up in the produce business, just as my grandson has. Six years ago, this market was going to close and I just couldn’t stand to see that happen. So my daughter, Shea, and I decided to keep it going,” said Susan Arviso, current owner of the San Jacinto Certified Farmers’ Market. “My grandson, Elijah, has been with us here since he was three days old. He’s four now.”
What makes this particular farmers’ market all the more important to the community is that it is truly a labor of family love, and a testament to the power of women in business. “We’re not only full to vendor capacity here, but last week we had a grand opening at our second farmers’ market, this one in Banning. The San Gorgonio Hospital called us up and asked us to add one there in Banning. And it’s just my daughter and myself that run the whole show.”
Arviso, her daughter, and her four year-old grandson make up the management team. If someone wants to see the power of women in business, they need look no further than owners behind the SJCFM.
Farmers’ markets have been growing in popularity since at least the early 2000s as many Americans yearn for fresher, healthier local produce and items made by local artisans. Healthy fruits and vegetables and niche artisan-made products make up the bulk of the new farmers’ market fare.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Why don’t you have limes? The stores have them.’ I point out to our customers that here, locally, limes are only in season from September to November,” said third generation Redlands farmer Kyle Forsythe. “These [grocery] stores may have all sorts of fruits and vegetables, but that convenience comes at a price. The fruit and produce is shipped from all over and it’s usually not ripe when shipped. It’s not at the height of its flavor or vitamin content, and folks don’t realize that they’re getting an inferior product to what’s delivered locally and in-season.”
After laughing at me for thinking that “an avocado is an avocado,” Forsythe educated me on the fact that there are more than 400 types of avocados alone. “And each type has its own growing season. Most people only know the Hass type of avocado. Do you know why? Because it’s the easiest to pack. The stores aren’t carrying it because it’s the healthiest variety, but because it’s easier for them to carry.”
Aileen Bell, owner of Teenie Weenie Greenies (teenieweeniegreenies.com), spoke of the health-enhancing properties of her hand-grown microgreens (baby veggies) and how she feels she’s on the cusp of a health trend. “I’ve been here since last spring and the business is growing. People love these greens for their full-bodied flavor and the health of these sprouts.”
Being somewhat skeptical, I looked up the nutritional value of microgreens and, sure enough, there are studies out there to back up the nutritional value of microgreens and the hunch followed by many Americans to shop local, for health and flavor.
Bell’s son also decided to get in on the farmers’ market trend, but in a completely different business-woodworking. “I teach woodworking at Riverside. I’ve been at this farmers’ market for a year and I have a spot at the Banning Farmers’ Market as well,” said specialty woodworker Robert Cockburn of “qualitywoodengoods” on Facebook. “I’ve been working on wood since I was a kid and I turned my passion into a business.” While the bulk of Cockburn’s offerings are handmade cutting boards, he also makes handles for knives and other beautifully-crafted wooden goods as well.
If you get hungry while shopping here at the SJCFM, there’s always handcrafted specialty sandwiches which are a delicious part of the shopping experience. “I was in the culinary business for 15 years when I decided that I hated working for someone else. I’ve had great success here and I have a spot at the Banning Farmers’ Market as well,” said Damien Sosa of Reall’s. I asked about the interesting name and was told, “The name came from the first letter of the names of each of my children.” The aroma coming from this stall is enough to draw any passerby to the market. “I love this market; it’s well-run and we’re all like family.”
And speaking of aromas, I had to check out Purity EssentOils. Again, the twin ideas of niche products and health came together. “I knew that essential oils could help people in lots of ways and, since these oils had always been part of my life, even as a child, I decided to make it a business. I began with just five oils, which I hand-distilled myself. As the business grew, I knew I also had to outsource, but with the highest quality oils available,” said Lyle Perez, owner of Purity EssentOils. “Like so many businesses here, I’m a one-man shop; I do the packaging, the products, the ordering and everything else.” Fortunately, it’s also a true family business, as Lyle’s wife decorates the oil diffusers.
While things may have changed since the days Thomas Jefferson visited a farmers’ market, for niche quality-made products and the freshest fruits and produce available, you still can’t beat a local farmers’ market. Every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2575 South San Jacinto Avenue in San Jacinto, you can experience it for yourself.