From Humble Beginnings, a New Market Grows

When California's certified farmers markets program started in 1977, one of its goals was to provide affordable, nutritious produce to low-income communities. As it turned out, markets more often succeeded in prosperous areas.

Last Saturday, the Mercado la Paloma, a city-funded community development project that houses food stalls, health information booths and art exhibits in an attractive modern building, launched a farmers market in its parking lot. Sadly, few customers showed up, perhaps because the market's immediate neighborhood, an industrial swath three blocks east of USC, draws little traffic on weekends.

But the market did offer good farmers and produce. Richard and Jenny Youngblood, a retired couple from Littlerock, Calif. had tasty Fancy Lady peaches and aromatic Santa Rosa plums--their season in the high desert is several weeks later than in the main growing area of the San Joaquin Valley. Larry Scattaglia, from a large farm in the same town, sold ultra-sweet Grand Pearl white nectarines and tangier Red Diamond yellow nectarines. From Hanford, in the Central Valley, David Avila brought fresh peaches and nectarines, along with a full selection of dried fruits and nuts, including pistachios, almonds, excellent apricot slabs and Calimyrna figs. He said he'd have fresh figs for Saturday's market.

Tamai Farms of Oxnard displayed good Diamante strawberries, as well as cantaloupes, beefsteak tomatoes and green beans. Kelly Farms of Chino sold white corn (three ears for $1), tomatoes and Camarosa strawberries. Beatrice Gama and her son Jesus, from Arvin, had brown eggs, jalapeno and serrano hot peppers, tomatillos and seedless watermelons.

Adam Thompson of Paso Robles sold pale green tart and crunchy Early Gold apples, one of the new season's first varieties. Don Schram of Fillmore had superbly sweet and juicy Valencia oranges and six kinds of honey, including unusual raspberry; dark, molasses-like avocado; and eucalyptus, which had a pleasing butterscotch taste.

Mercado La Paloma farmers market, 3655 S. Grand Ave., L.A. (south of Jefferson Boulevard), Saturdays, 2 to 5 p.m. Entrance to parking is on Hope Street.

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