Livin’ La Vida Local at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Los Angeles and I can’t help smiling. I’m strolling along Ivar Avenue in Hollywood, browsing the stalls of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. The canopy-covered farmstands are overflowing with color: robust pepper reds, golden Valencia oranges, deep green bunches of kale, and potent eggplant purple. There are many other colors too among the market’s offerings, a polychromatic offering to the Sunday morning gods.
This is the life.
Established in 1991 to provide access to local, sustainable farm fresh products to the Hollywood area, the Hollywood Farmers’ Market is now one of Los Angeles’ largest street markets. One hundred and fifty vendors line both sides of Ivar Avenue for two blocks, stretching between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, and along a brief stretch of Selma. You can find almost anything here—from produce to prepared foods, handcrafted soaps and jewelry, rich brown breads and amber bottles of honey, and more exotic fare like wild game and fruits de mer.
The heady scent of dusky earth commingled with fresh produce fills the air. Weaving in and out of the crowds of fellow market-goers, I’m seduced by a fruit stand where the vendor offers me a Lapin cherry to taste. I bite into it, revealing the firm, merlot-colored flesh, and a little of the juice escapes, making a slow trail over my lower lip. I wipe it away while asking for a half pound of the fruit to go.
The sheer variety offered here, when taken in tandem with the chatter of sellers and buyers bargaining, the rustle of bags, and the jingle of coins changing hands, makes the market feel more like a summer street fair than a farm market. Adding to the festival feel are the musicians mixed in among oranges and oysters and ornamental jewelry—the low, round tone of a saxophone here, the mellow strains of a jazz trio there, and, somewhere in between, the bright but melancholy timbre of a ukulele.
Unfolding my shopping bag, I make a few more stops, sampling a slice of small golden apricot so flavorful and sweet I can’t help but purchase two of them along with a pint of the reddest, juiciest strawberries I’ve ever had. My last acquisition is a quartet of oranges that will eventually make the trip back East with me and that I’ll use nearly six weeks later to make the most delicious agua fresca.
For a moment, I make believe I’m living in Los Angeles and this visit to the market is merely part of my weekly ritual. This is how I travel: part tourist, part pretender.
However, the pretense is coming to an end as it’s my last day in Los Angeles and I’m leaving in an hour or two. For the first time since arriving, although I’m excited about starting my trek along the Pacific Coast, I feel wistful about going. The first sharp prick of tears sting my eyes as I struggle to remain composed.
Dr. Seuss was right. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Later, I’m behind the wheel and on the road starting my trip northward, the pint of strawberries I purchased already half empty. My heart is full, however, of sweet memories of Los Angeles and soon, I’m smiling again.
What you need to know about the Hollywood Farmers’ Market
When: Sundays, 8 am to 1 pm
Where: Ivar and Selma Avenues, Hollywood
Tip: If you go early, have a light breakfast. Many of the vendors offer samples in hopes you’ll buy.