Photo by Alexis Padilla
The Malibu Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of the Malibu Library and former Sheriff’s station, but with Santa Monica College’s new potential venture into Malibu, the farmers market may lose its spot on Civic Center Way.
In February of 2016, the Malibu Planning Commission approved a resolution, which will allow SMC to bring a permanent campus to Malibu, after a public hearing. Since then, some residents have been fighting to keep this from occurring according to Debra Bianco, the founder and president of the Cornucopia Foundation, which runs the Farmers Market. However, presently, SMC plans to build its campus in the location where the farmers market takes place each weekend.
Davide Rowe, a vendor who sells root vegetable chips said Malibu would lose a core aspect of the city if the market was forced to relocate. “It would affect [the Farmers Market] tremendously because you’re uprooting something that is absolutely root of the city.” Rowe said of the Santa Monica College coming to Malibu. “When you take away the root, things die. You can’t replace that. It’s not just taking from us, the vendors that are connected with this kind of relationship, but it’s also taking from [the customers], which is unfair, and trying to replace it with something not as organic.”
According to SMC’s website, it has satellite campuses in several Malibu locations, including Webster Elementary School and the Malibu Senior Center. However, the college is planning on building a more permanent campus in Malibu.
The City of Malibu website states the details of this project, which would turn the former Sheriff’s station into a Malibu campus for SMC. However, this project proposal has been met with some controversy, as two different groups, the Malibu Township Council and the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth, have already appealed the city’s April 2016 approval of the project.
If the project is successful, the Farmers Market will have to be removed or relocated. The Sunday market has been in Malibu since 2000 according to Bianco. She said the foundation’s board reaches out to potential vendors for the farmers market, but they can also request to participate. She said the board members sample everything that vendors sell before they are allowed to participate.
Bianco said the Cornucopia Foundation’s main focus is on environmental issues. Because of this, she said that a portion of the market’s sales go to environmental charities. She said some of the charities the foundation donates to include the California Wildlife Foundation and some animal rescues.
“Normally, we teach environmental education. We had a lot of synergy going on with Pepperdine, we had our own piece of property, we came up with our own curriculum, we were the first to get environmental education hands-on in Southern California,” Bianco said. “But right now we don’t have that property, [since] about a year and a half, we’re not quite sure what we’re going to do so we do pick other organizations [to donate to].”
Without the Malibu Farmers Market, the foundation and other charities will not receive that revenue. Bianco said that it is unclear what would happen to the farmers market if SMC came to Malibu.
Rowe said he has been a vendor at about seven different markets in the area and that he prefers the customers and environment of the Malibu Farmers Market.
“It’s a tremendous market,” Rowe said. “I love the way they keep things going in a positive way and all of the vendors come together and work together. It’s very professionally done, it’s wonderfully kept and there’s a uniqueness.”
Alexis Nguyen is a newer vendor at the market at the Dolce Monachelli’s cake booth. She said that while she has worked there for about a month, the cake booth has been there for a couple of years. Nguyen said that despite not having too much experience with this market, she has noticed that the familial environment often contributes to her sales.
“I love the customers here,” Nguyen said. “I love getting to see all of the little kids.”
She said that she sells many cakes to families.
While Nguyen has only worked the Malibu Farmers Market a few times, Rowe has been a vendor at this market for more than three years. He says what sets it apart is the customers and that he thinks they appreciate the vendors’ presence in the community.
“That’s one of the cool things about Malibu,” he said. “It’s that you establish the relationship with your customers, so when they come, they know that you’re here. If you’re missing, it’s like, ‘whoa, where are they?’ And that’s a really cool relationship.”
He said the customers in Malibu not only remember the vendors, but care, too. Rowe said that taking the farmers market away would also mean taking a vital part of the Malibu away, and said he hopes it does not come to that.
Follow Paola Ramos on Twitter: @PaolasPassport