LV Life Editor
At 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Oscar de Leon is preparing for the bustle of vendors and customers at the Claremont Farmers and Artisans Market.
Managing a farmers market is a fulltime commitment that calls for more than organization skills and collaboration. De Leon, an alumnus of the University of La Verne, proves constant care is another key ingredient in cultivating a healthy and thriving farmers market.
“Each farmers market is different,” de Leon said. “Success depends on the community. It takes a lot to build and let people know it’s there.”
De Leon first became involved when he was a kid volunteering for a horticulture program that grew and sold herbs at a local farmers market. This involvement only escalated in 1991 when he became assistant manager at a farmers market. After a year of being an assistant, de Leon took on the manager position.
De Leon now manages three farmers markets including one in Riverside and is in the process of growing one in Upland. The Claremont Farmers market has been flourishing for 11 years.
De Leon stresses the importance of building relationships with the vendors and community.
When the farmers market was just a seed, he would drive to other farmers markets and scout for vendors in hopes that they would change locations.
“For many vendors this is their only job and they need to consider the money; it’s a risk to find and change locations,” de Leon said.
After recruiting vendors, de Leon works through a considerable amount of paper such as dealing with licenses and insurance.
Once the required permission is obtained he ensures the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health regulations are followed.
De Leon is then the first one at the market to set up vendor spaces and be sure that the daily activities are all in order. However, this work does not go unrewarded.
“The variety and quality of the vendors set Claremont apart,” de Leon said.
According to de Leon, the real success of a farmers market comes when at least 80 percent of the vendors are farmers that sell specialty items such as fresh baked bread, or an assortment of cheeses.
One such vendor is Pricco Family Bakery with their stationary shop in La Verne. Jeff Bloedorn, son-in-law to the owner, says that the family bakery has been around for seven years and has been a part of the farmers market for one.
“We wanted to involve the kids outside of the bakery and thought selling at a farmers market was a good way to do it,” Bloedorn said.
“More vendors attract people, but if there are not enough people then you can’t afford the vendors,” de Leon said.
Claremont has surely embraced its farmers market and the fantastic produce that grows out of it. De Leon said that it is important to support the local farming and economy, and the farmers market provides the chance.
“It’s not just the produce and product that is important, but the social aspect. Vendors do not sell if they are not friendly,” de Leon said.
“Shoppers also want to get out of the work mentality and socialize with the community.”
Local farmers not only benefit from the farmers market, but local artists as well.
Pam Fall has been selling her photographs of the Italian landscape at the Claremont farmers market for eight years.
After being laid-off from her job, Fall went to Rome. While there the Sept. 11 attacks happened and she realized that many died before they could finish life and complete their dreams. Fall decided she would not be one of them.
Since then Fall has been taking film-photography and selling her work.
“Claremont people are well traveled and educated, and they appreciate my work,” Fall said.
Under the green thumb of de Leon and the persistent dedication of local vendors, the Claremont farmers market will be shinning with quality produce for years to come. The farmers market can be found from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday, and is located on 2nd street.
Amanda Nieto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.