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Topanga Farmers Market
Feature

Topanga Farmers Market 

Grand opening March 1 at Topanga Community Center

When Kate Kimmel and Freddi Swanson connected as new moms through a mutual friend they met at the old Topanga farmers market, they had no idea they’d one day be bringing that market back to life. 

Kate started out at Teach for America, a group that recruits recent college graduates and places them in under-resourced communities. After three years she left the classroom to work at a philanthropic consulting firm, and later was hired by a non-profit that served LA Unified School District. She worked with schools to help them better utilize technology, and also trained LAUSD families in home computing skills to bridge the gap between classroom learning and the reality many kids faced at home. A deep rooted desire to help, to make the world a little easier for all of us, is in her blood.

Freddi also has a long history of non-profit work. She moved with her family to Topanga in 1995, when she took advantage of a year of home-schooling to author a book at age 14: “A Kid’s Guide to Giving”. In Topanga she got involved in community service, and saw first hand the direct impact of her actions.

Freddi and Kate saw the need for access to local organic food in support of more sustainable lifestyles. More than that, they recognized the importance of gathering in community, something that is intrinsic for them both. When Kate’s dream of a zero waste food pantry never materialized due to canyon zoning restrictions, she was looking for that next step. Reinventing the Topanga Farmers Market became a labor of love, one that is currently a 30-hour-a-week commitment.

The two women enlisted the skills of Sarah Seelinger, who ran the previous incarnation of the Topanga farmer’s market, and has had experience managing three other farmers markets in Los Angeles. She is back on board as market manager. The new market will feature 40-45 stalls, all offering different types of produce, artisanal culinary products, crafts and other curated goods, and prepared food. The idea being that one can do a full shop for the week in one stop. 

The stage is set for a vibrant experience on March 1, the official opening of the new Topanga Farmers Market at the Topanga Community Center in the heart of the canyon. Navigating the permit process, creating a partnership with the TCC, raising startup costs, spearheading marketing efforts, and courting the vendors hasn’t been an easy  task. Finding farmers took six months, and losing them could happen overnight. 

“Farmers are taking a risk to drive out here and take a chance on our market,” Kate says She adds that she wants the venture to thrive not only for our community, but also in support of the livelihoods of the farmers. She knows them by name, and she knows the names of their kids, as well as what generation will take over. Most vendors are from multi-generational family farms, and many are female-run. 

“They are real people with the scrappy Topanga spirit we love,” Freddi says. 

The vendor list currently includes Cuyama Orchards, Weiser Family Farms, Casitas Valley Pastures, Burkart Organics, McGrath Family Farm, Etheridge, Vision Sprouts, and Village Organic Herbals, as well as many more, bringing resources that may not previously have been available.

Both women stress that the success of the market is 100 percent tied to the support it receives from the community. Topanga can be a place where vendors find customers and we have once again a place to gather weekly in camaraderie, and feed ourselves and our children the best food on offer.

Zero waste is an important principle for the market. There is a plan to donate unsold produce to homeless shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens, and a portion of profits from the Topanga Farmers Market will be donated to SuprMarkt, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that seeks to help eliminate food deserts.

The Topanga Farmers Market will take place every Friday, 9 am – 1 pm, at the Topanga Community Center, 1440 North Topanga Canyon Blvd., starting March 1. 

For more information about the team, what will be offered, how to help, or how to become a vendor, visit www.topangafarmersmarket.com

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