There is really something to be said about the quality of local produce and other comparable products. And by local, we mean within the general vicinity of the greater Los Angeles area. This something is palpable, unique and refreshing; especially in the midst of large-scale agricultural production where frankly the source and quality of the food is often ambiguous and questionable.
At farmers’ markets such as the one every Friday in Echo Park, we get the opportunity to not only purchase fresh, organic food from the source (the farmers), but support and learn about these small, often family owned industries first hand. As The New York Times’ Mark Bittman put it, “Farmers’ markets are not just markets. They’re educational systems that teach us how food is raised and why that matters.” And it does matter, as we’ve learned from local farmers such as Cliff Kane of Kane’s Family Farms, and Farmer John Sweredoski of Sweredoski Farms Naturally Grown, where the freshness and taste of their produce is instantly apparent and the love and care for what they do inherent.
We shopped at the Echo Park Farmers’ Market last Friday, and were overcome by the deliciousness of the food and the generosity of its local vendors, now growing in numbers. There was even wonderful live music by Echo Park locals such as David and Andrea, who played nostalgic renditions of Mexican folk songs.
We hope you enjoy this recounting of our experience. And make sure to stay tuned for our upcoming cooking escapade as we turned our fresh finds into a delicious (and ambitious) meal.
Kane’s Family Farm
Winner of Orange Coast Magazine’s Best of 2012, Kane’s Family Farm specializes in a variety of mushrooms and avocados from their orchard in La Habra Heights. Their produce is 100% natural, hand-grown and handpicked and free of any chemicals or pesticides. After a lovely conversation with Cliff Kane, we were given a heaping back of his beautiful variety of mushrooms – Golden Oyster, Pioppino Black Poplar, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms. They were incredibly tasty and fresh.
“As local growers, we take pride in providing naturally grown and sustained produce directly to our community. This is food in its naturally nutritious and delicious glory–the way nature intends it to be, and the way all of us should be eating.”
Sweredoski Farms Naturally Grown
With an epic and inspiring family story spanning over 50 years, Sweredoski Farms Naturally Grown boasts incredibly fresh and diverse produce from their 15 acre Bell Gardens farm. The farm was founded by Mary and Frank Takahashi in the 1960s and is now run by grandson-in-law, the ever optimistic Farmer John Sweredoski. They are proud members of Certified Naturally Grown, and owe the magic touch of their quality and success to 93 year old Grandma Mary who still works on the farm.
“Picked-to-plate next day fresh. Organic farming practices exclusively from our beginning in 1961.”
It’s not completely outlandish to say the Brothers Products and their literal, respective brothers, nephews, cousins, friends and other helpful hands, are the rock stars of the Echo Park Farmers’ Market. Their wide variety of hummuses, dips, spreads and other Mediterranean foods are bursting with addictive flavor and are astonishingly, for the most part, vegan and gluten free.
With a knack for sales and charm, Sabri, Adam and Mo serve up enough samples to suffice a meal and leave their customers hungry for more. Some of our favorite dips include Garlic & Basil, Rosemary Ginger Garlic, Olive Tapenade, Avocado Hummus and even the newer, more adventurous additions like the Fig and Chocolate dips. We also can’t get enough of their delicious dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and feta cheese.
“Brothers Products began over a decade ago with one mission, to share the wonderful flavors of Mediterranean food with all consumers. Our vision began with a great tasting hummus & dips that could be portable and not be weighed down with artificial preservatives.”
We love the plump and juicy strawberries from Ayala Farms, a small, family run farm located in Oxnard, CA. According to Sage Vegan, one of their main clients, “The farm is too small to be considered certified organic, but they grow all their produce without chemical pesticides, and petroleum based fertilizers, relying heavily on chicken compost and fish emulsion to feed their produce.” The coastal climate provides the farm with year-round crops, which keeps hungry fans like us and Sage Vegan always fulfilled.
Balderama Farms & Aunt Willie’s Apiary
Always greeting with a smile, Anthony Balderama of Balderama Farms brings a plentitude of yummy grapes, peaches, plums and other pitted fruits to the farmers’ market. We enjoyed them with fresh honey from Aunt Willie’s Apiary of Bellflower, CA. The tender juiciness of the fruit along with the assorted flavors of raw honey (we especially love the cinnamon and orange blossom) serves a relentless sweet tooth without the guilt.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the fresh-popped kettle corn made with love by Sookie and Allan of S & S Kettle Corn. Besides the classic, plain flavor and caramel, they serve up a wide range of adventurous renditions such as cherry, blueberry, jalapeno and cheese flavored. We were instant addicts.
Oaxaca Raw Living Food
A newcomer to the Echo Park Farmers’ Market, Oaxaca Raw Living Food has already impressed us with their delicious, raw vegan creations both savory and sweet. Don’t be fooled, though, by their simple ingredients of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts; the tastes of their mainly Mexican themed snacks are full of flavor and surprise. We’ve tried most of their products, but are particularly biased towards the tasty Raw Chipotle Pizza.
“We use organic or pesticide free vegetables, Himalayan pink crystal salt, first cold press olive oil, and purified water.”