Overnight, the vacant, dreary parking lot northwest of the La Cañada Congregational Church (known here for many years as Church of the Lighted Window) comes alive with farmers displaying fresh raspberries, bakers with buttery biscuits and cooks offering hot tamales. It’s a kaleidoscope of sights, smells and colors.
It’s the weekly Farmers Market, across Foothill Boulevard from Memorial Park, a great big happening smack dab in the middle of La Cañada Flintridge.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Saturday, about 45 stalls open for business 52 weeks of the year. As I crossed the street I thought of a movie set with this gorgeous display of fruits and vegetables, fresh off the pickup trucks, plumped up for the camera man.
I saw a giant cauliflower that I could barely lift, organic apples, fresh wild fish, and avocados so big I couldn’t close my hand around them. Somehow I managed. I am going to admit that the delicious strawberries that I bought made it only as far as my taste buds and not into my tote bag.
There are also retail stalls displaying flowers, clothing and jewelry. As I looked around at the bustle of vendors, farmers and shoppers, breathing in the fresh air, I realized that I could be in any market square across the nation or the world, and, for that matter, in any century.
An extra plus this particular day was spotting our La Cañada postmistress, who had convinced the U.S. Postal Service to set up a one-time post office table at the market to hand-stamp our outgoing mail with 91011, in honor of our ZIP code and the day’s date, an event that will not happen again in our lifetimes.
The Farmers Market and our Chamber of Commerce supervise the marketplace and it is a happy blend. I would like to see a handout listing all the vendors — perhaps with a description of their products. And there I would be the following Saturday, with my shopping list and another tote bag eventually full of goods. Or, more appropriately, goodies.
Parking is an issue. There are not enough spaces for this popular event. Newcomers may be somewhat discouraged and even veterans of the market may not want to walk around the corner and down the block with their bags full of supplies. Nevertheless, the trek is worth it.
Many of us of a certain age remember when farms were just outside the towns in which we lived. The whole family would crowd into the old car and make an outing of it.
It was open season on the produce and fruit. You could bite into a big heirloom tomato and have the juice dribble down your chin. There were plenty of red lips (and achy stomachs) when too many cherries were torn from the trees.
One summer day, my friend Dean and I earned some money by picking peaches. The orchard smelled, well, peachy, and I don’t recall having breakfast.
We did get paid by the pound and I recall the old-style scales hanging from the trees. There was an extra “spiff” (a commission) for the kid whose end-of-the day tonnage beat all the others. I believe Dean was tempted to lift me up and put me on the scales so he could win. I had eaten the profits.
It’s more fun bringing the orchard and farm to us. So, a big thanks for the creative people who had the foresight to establish the Farmers Market in La Cañada. It was raw inspiration and we now have our own farmer in the dell.
GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (818) 790-1990.