Diana Rodgers and the M.V. Farmer’s Market

By Erica Snowlake

For this special Women’s Day feature, I choose to honor one of my favorite Goddessess, Gaea, (pronounced Gee-uh), our beloved home planetary Being, who guides our harmonic destinies in her nurturing role as the Garden, and one of her eco-conscious, devoted mid-wives, Diana Rodgers of the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market Association. This vibrant market takes place every Sunday from 8:30 am to 2 pm, at the corner of Venice Blvd. and Grandview.     

I first met Diana in the summer of 2006 when we applied to run a booth for the raw, vegan, 100 per cent organic restaurant Leaf Cuisine. She set me up in a great spot next to Tom from Dramm and Echter’s flower farm, Dick the french bakery chef, and Harry’s Honey! It was a fun Sunday gig, albeit early! lively neighborhood yadayada amid groovy music, yummy, prepared exotic foods, and farm fresh produce. I enjoyed the supreme pleasure of opening coconuts for ‘kids’ of all-ages, admiring and catching Diana’s enthusiasm, by witnessing her genuine heartfelt stewardship for the community’s seed vision sprouting into the fruit-bearing tree of abundance the market is today.     

Sunday. February 22. Wow! This market’s happening! Hundreds of people are inter-relating, eating-on-the-go, carting bags with bunchy leaves sticking out, kids clutching pink daisies are whizzing by, dancing in their pajamas, amid folks exchanging green pleasantries, farmers, community activists, Oaxacan-Americans, I even spy Councilman Bill Rosendahl making the rounds, coaxing the sun out with his thousand-watt smile. Diana takes a moment to chat with the Beachhead on her busiest day of Co-Creation.

Beachhead: Tell us about yourself, green-eyed Lady!

Diana: My family goes back to Pennsylvania Quakers in 1640, my heritage is Brit. Isle mutt with some Swedish and French. Dad’s an anthropologist, Mom’s a Jungian analyst who was out there practicing yoga and buying bulk soy beans in the sixties. I’m a hybrid of Santa Monica and Philadelphia, and attended UCLA as a world arts and cultures major.

Beachhead: How’d you get involved with what I call the Real Market economy?

Diana: I managed the Main St. Sunday market for ten years from 1995-2005, moved to S.F. for a couple years, and when I returned a coalition of Mar Vista business and community leaders asked me to share my experience here. This markets into 2 1/2 years going strong with 45 – 55 booths, depending on the season.

Beachhead: So you like hosting what comes down to a feast, a festival, and a general party for thousands every weekend?

Diana: You can believe it! The farmers themselves say this is one of their most favorite markets in their busy schedules, which averages 5-6 markets a week. The community’s involvement and feedback of appreciation keeps everyone going, a lot of open-mindedness and ingenuity, reflecting this eclectic neighborhood of helpful, interested, and super-positive people, 70 percent Oaxacan, with a Korean church, and a healthy smattering of Mar Vista and Venice hipsters. A very down-to-earth vibe, all in all. I particularly enjoy being part of the Flow.

Beachhead: Tell us some of the unique features of this market. In addition, of course, to Empanadas, Peruvian Hungry Inka, Cafe Laurent Omelettes, Larry’s Grill, Kettle Korn, and Crepes Duisigne, to name a few of the multilingual blessings.

Diana: Our organization is non-profit and has been sustaining itself from the beginning. We recently opened a dog-sitting booth, (we both look over to see six pooches of varying pedigrees totally chilling out). I’m really proud of our weekly donations of produce to the Neighborhood Youth Association for cooking classes and after-school snacks. We’ve expanded to three tented dining areas, we’ve got a central meeting space for the Mar Vista Council, an on-hand Green Committee, and an Arts Camp for kids run by SmartSpace.

Beachhead: Paul Herzog of the Green Committee came up with a cool three R’s plan for water conservation, along with the sustainable triology of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, he’s promoting Retain the water, Recharge the aquifer, and Replant with native species.

Diana: And they’ll tell you just how to do it! We’ve also thrilled with our three live Djs on rotation, including the Imaginary Army, Mmumberonederful, and Ameet Mehta, currently spinning today’s ambient tunes and world music beats.

Beachhead: We’ve been listening to an Air/Beatles remix, now we’re bopping along to the latest David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration. Ameet confided the Oaxacan grandmothers took a while to get used to the pulse of the urban electronica, before totally coming around to dig it!

Diana: Things really get hopping on our three fiesta dates each year – Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the Market on the first Sunday in August, and our Halloween celebration complete with the Super Heros Brass and Tin Marching Ensemble. A local Arts and Crafts Collective has specifically formed for the market, showcasing their wares the first Sunday of every month. Demetrios of the Venice Grind and Ian Votteri, both on our Board of Directors, have recently set up a wireless internet link which works inside the market. These fine gentlemen, along with Lorraine Wells, our resident firecracker and co-member of my green team, Allison Copeland, and Jonie Chitwood of Soaptopia, were instrumental in coming together as the initial visionary force of the market.

Beachhead: How do you describe the relevance of the market to the average citizens who buy their produce at Costco every week?

Diana: We’ve got seven booths certified organic, and the market itself is environmentally conscious. We’re creating a central square in the tradition of the zocalo, the creation of a transient plaza as a new millennial version of place-making, by and for the community, forming direct links with the land and its caretakers. You can turn off the t.v., come here, and feel it’s not all so bad, food for the future is being grown, children, joy, and comfort abound.

Beachhead: What a diversity of vendors! Today we sampled goat’s cheese and olives freshly arrived from Greece generously and graciously offered by Alexis of Ari’s Foods, and a delectable kale salad from Urban Green. Red heirloom beefsteak tomatoes are fantastic drizzled with olive oil, on toasted organic whole wheat bread by, say, La Boulangerie.

Diana: Our farm produce ranges from San Diego to Riverside, Camarillo to Fresno. We feature Laotian and Chinese farmers. I’d like to send kudos out to Councilman Bill Rosendahl, he’s been a big champion of this market, and of course the Mar Vista Community Council. It’s definitely a team effort and always will be.

Beachhead: What other visions do you foresee yourself manifesting?

Diana: (laughing) I’m open to the emergent nature of possibilities. The market may one day host a Trading Post of local garden produce sanctioned by the Ag Commission. I also manage the Westchester Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 8:30 – 1pm in the park on Lincoln across Otis College. My own backyard garden produces apples, peaches, apricots, plums, artichokes, and grapes. I’m developing a new interest by building a passive solar home and farm in Northern Cal.

Beachhead: Well the nature of Creation Goddesses is to pollinate the Cosmos, ye olde ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ You are called to compassionate service for a global dawning of hope, people more than ever seek to trust and realize the abundance inherent in our birthright on this 16.4 billion-year young Eden of Divinity. Who’s your Mama? after all! As any heavenly Gaean being knows, the benefits of a green thumb, clean air and water, and growing up in a peaceful and loving community are the real riches in Life. Thank-you Diana and ongoing congratulations to all!

Diana: Namaste!

All Together Now: Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!