April 2010 home page

  It’s Not Just About Food
Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Photo Piper Underwood.

What makes a farmers’ market successful? This was the question I posed to longtime Del Mar Farmers’ Market manager Alan Usrey. He talked about the community that gathers at local farmers’ markets and the personality of each site. He spoke of the relationships between the regulars and the farmers.

I asked him to compare Del Mar’s Farmers’ Market with that of Solana Beach. What I learned was that I was essentially comparing apples to oranges. Solana Beach’s market is in a larger space (allowing for more vendors), located on a visible, highly pedestrian street, Cedros. It takes place on a Sunday and caters to locals and tourists alike.

Del Mar Farmers’ Market is tucked behind the City Hall in an intimate space. Its farmers have been coming to Del Mar for years, and it’s a gathering place for the larger Del Mar community and those that happen to stumble upon it.

During my conversation with Alan, my question changed to “What makes Del Mar Farmers’ Market unique?” He explained that the vision of the women who started the farmers’ market some 20 years ago was not to turn a profit, but to bring the concept of healthy living to Del Mar, and to make the connection between the local farms and the local community. It would be a place to commune once a week and talk about the goings on in town.

Photo Piper Underwood.

He noted that our farmers’ market is a non-profit, and once the expenses have been paid, the rest of the proceeds are donated to community projects. Money from the Del Mar Farmers’ Market has found its way into the library, the Powerhouse, the benches at local bus stops, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, and more.

What these women realized early on was the value of community. They understood that community members aren’t static. The same person who attends the farmers’ market also uses the library and probably goes to the beach, and may have kids in the local schools.

Photo Piper Underwood.

During Usrey’s tenure, he tried to utilize the small space behind the city’s offices to its potential. He sought to offer a diversity of items so farms wouldn’t be competing with one another and shoppers could have a diverse selection of farm-fresh, seasonal produce.

If you’re entertaining on a Saturday night, you can impress your guests with risotto with fresh savoy cabbage, lemon and parsley from the farmers’ market. If cooking is not your thing, you can always find a beautiful bouquet of flowers at the market too. Who knows, you may just be sitting on a bench donated by the Del Mar Farmers’ Market.


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