By Gus Herrera
The Pasadena Certified Farmers’ Market (PCFM) is re-defining the way farmers’ markets connect the local agrarian and urban communities.
When one thinks of a farmers’ market, images of a trendy, expensive setting, populated by hipsters, foodies, and vegans may come to mind. Although the idea of providing an environment in which the community-at-large may do business directly with local growers sounds theoretically fantastic, farmers’ markets are typically not a family’s go-to shopping destination for weekly groceries – especially for those with lower incomes.
Moreover, the fact that most cities/towns host these markets only once a week furthers the contrast between the convenience of being able to visit your nearby chain grocery store anytime during the week (at more or less any hour of the day) and having to plan ahead, buying all of your week’s supplies in one day.
Here in the San Gabriel Valley, all of these stereotypes and misconceptions are being shattered by the PCFM. Not only does the PCFM operate two days out of the week (Tuesday and Saturday) in two convenient locations, the market also offers a variety of services for patrons from all walks of life, to ensure that purchasing its fresh, local food is just as convenient and accessible as a trip to Vons or Ralphs.
The PCFM is made up of the Villa Parke Center Market (Tuesdays) and the larger Victory Park Market (Saturdays). Both boast a lengthy relationship with the city, the Villa Parke Center Market started in 1980 and its Victory Park counterpart began four years later in 1984. It did not take long for the PCFM to be recognized for its greatness, in 1997, the market received the Arthur Nobel Award for “Making Life Better in Pasadena.”
The PCFM is sponsored by the City of Pasadena Human Services and Recreation Department and, as a Certified Farmers’ Market, all farmers/vendors are approved by the county agricultural commissioner. The PCFM’s certified status provides several benefits for both farmers and consumers, including competitive, fair prices and the transparency every patron deserves when it comes to their food. When you shop at the PCFM, you can rest assured that every vendor you do business with personally grew, cooked, or prepared the items you so desire.
The PCFM cuts out any commercial/marketing middlemen, allowing consumers to save money. By allowing farmers to sell in smaller amounts than the traditional high-volume distribution systems, the market levels the playing field for smaller, family-owned farms. Smaller volumes also result in higher standards of quality, as well as allowing farmers to sell more delicate, tree-ripened fruit that would otherwise be unable to survive the commercial packing/shipping process.
As soon as you step onto the market grounds, you are immediately greeted with a plethora of delicious scents and vibrant colors. At the Victory Park Market, the San Gabriel Valley’s largest farmers’ market that sometimes hosts up to 40 different vendors, shoppers can find just about anything their heart (or stomach) desires. In addition to all the fresh, locally-grown produce, the Victory Park Market offers a variety of food artisans, along with fresh fish, organic beef, breads, and some other specialty items. Whether you are looking for fruit, Kimchi, or shellfish, you can be sure to find it on Saturday mornings at Victory Park. There is also a refreshing selection of plants and flowers.
As far as special services go, the PCFM offers quite a few. The Villa Parke Center Market will soon celebrate the first anniversary of its Market Match Program, which began in September 2015. The program, which is intended for recipients of CalFresh, WiC, SSI, and SSDI, matches up to $10 per market day, affording qualified individuals better access to fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Gretchen Sterling, manager of the PCFM, funds for the Market Match program were made available by Hunger Action L.A. and the Pasadena Unified School District and, during its first nine months, the program gave out more than $7,000.
The Victory Park Market recently began a Market Token program, which allows patrons to purchase tokens via a debit/credit/ATM card. As farmers’ markets are predominantly cash-only establishments, this program certainly secures convenience for the modern shopper.
Both markets also proudly offer CalFresh, a federal supplemental nutrition assistance program that helps qualified individuals add fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet by providing them with monthly electronic benefits.
Additional programs include Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT); Women, Infant, and Children Program; Senior Nutrition Program; and more. For more information, visit the Victory Park Market’s friendly information booth.
PCFM’s Saturday market hours at Victory Park (2575 Paloma St.) are 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Tuesday market at Villa Parke Community Center (363 E. Villa St.) is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Both are open “rain or shine” and there is always plenty of free parking nearby.