(by Sally Chung) I woke up late on Saturday September 29, 2001 to a day I’d been looking forward to. Waking up early–that is, before noon–was struggle but I knew sleeping in wasn’t an option. So I told myself: all I had to do was roll out of bed, put on my clothes, grab my camera, and stagger down to the corner of Edgecliffe, my street. The 3700 block of Sunset was closed off to what the whole neighborhood had been waiting for: the grand opening of the Silverlake Farmer’s Market!
I was a newcomer to farmer’s markets. I’d been shopping at the one in Hollywood for about a month a month. When I’d attend the Hollywood market I found there were only two times during the day when the market was not overcrowded, and when parking was accessible. You either had to attend all too early in the morning, or else late in the day when the market was about to close. Each time had its faults…waking up at 8:00 a.m. meant sacrificing my favorite part of the market: seeing all the animals that are up for adoption. Getting there at closing time meant that I couldn’t always purchase all the groceries on my list. Some items would sell out before I would get there, and I’d have to leave empty-handed. My problem was solved when my community opened its doors to our very own farmer’s market. All I had to do was wake up and walk to the corner.
When I arrived I was greeted with the jazzy sounds of a unique street ensemble with a flute playing lead. As I walked further onto the Griffith Park Blvd. strip, I was greeted with the brightness of the day and the enthusiasm of cheerful vendors asking me to sample products. How could I say no to sweet farm-ripened peaches, tasty apples, luscious burgundy pomegranates, and sweet Valencia oranges! The choice of fruits and vegetables seemed limitless. Beautiful displays of organic greens, carrots, fresh basil, even dried Fuji apples…my mouth watered as I gazed at it all.
I strolled down the street feeling very much at ease. I found that this farmer’s market was less crowded than Hollywood’s, and that a definite feeling of community surrounded me. I felt comfortable taking my time as I stopped to look at the lively fresh sunflowers and orchids dance in the sun’s glorious rays. I petted each dog I passed, waved hello at adorable babies, and talked to my neighbors. In various conversations I learned that the Silverlake community had filed a petition four years ago to bring in a market. Four years later the city finally approved the petition. Saturday was chosen as to not compete with the farmer’s market in Hollywood on Sunday or interfere with anyone’s workday. Members of the community were able to recruit many of the vendors from the Hollywood market. And the market is still growing–there’s a waiting list of vendors wanting to join.
At one point I needed to stop and fill my growling belly. I found myself standing in front of the food stands. I found this to be my most difficult of choices. I couldn’t decide between sweet roasted fresh tamales or handmade crepes. ..I opted for a spinach and mushroom crepe, drizzled with a tangy hollandaise sauce, and soon found myself sitting down underneath a shady tree being serenaded by the sounds of my neighbor Walter’s bluegrass trio. I felt as if I were in some strange daydream. …
As I ate and listened to the music, I found myself talking to neighbors I didn’t know I had. They too felt the market’s grand opening was a moment to celebrate. We were happy and excited to have farm fresh produce at hand right in our backyard. It created an intimate atmosphere for neighborly gatherings.
Unlike the Hollywood farmer’s market, which was hurried, quick, and crowded, ours was a delightful place to meet new and old friends and neighbors and get to know the community. I actually had time to stop, look around, and revel in the communal ambience. It was refreshing for someone like me, who works six days a week, to know that I could wake up late in the day, walk to the corner of my block, buy my groceries, and meet people. This was undeniably a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Text and photos by Sally Chung