South Central Farmers' Cooperative

Stop by this socially conscious vendor's booth and try out some of their fresh, organic, delicious spring produce.

With lingering daylight, frequent showers, and warmer temps, it’s clear that winter has sufficiently made its mark and is on its way out. The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market is alive once again with that almost-summer feeling; families picnicking out on the Meridian center divider, vendors happily displaying fresh, newly harvested fruits and veggies, children running amok.  Winter produce is slowly but surely being phased out at the market and in its place, we welcome spring goodies such as fresh, green peas, cauliflower, arugula, navel oranges, radishes, spinach and turnips – a unique selection of fruits and vegetables that are sure to inspire creative cooks.

Feeling moved to take full advantage of a winter green that would most likely go missing in the coming weeks, I made a point to visit Capay Organics and purchase some of their curly kale. Delicious in salads or sautéed with a bit of peanut and/or sesame oil, garlic, tamari, and lemon juice and served over brown rice or quinoa, kale has become a go-to dinner dish in my house thanks to its simplicity to prepare and amazing health benefits. While once again admiring the array of colorful vegetables that adorned Capay’s booth, I noticed a vendor across the way whose beautiful display of fresh veggies posed serious competition to that of my dear Capay’s; and whose banner read, “South Central Farmers’ Cooperative”. Given my commitment to social justice and especially to serving traditionally underprivileged youth and neighborhoods, I was surprised that I’d never taken notice of this particular booth before.

“Do you actually grow all of this in South Central?” I asked, motioning to the spread of veggies laid out before me.

“We used to,” replied the young man behind the booth. “Now we’re located near Bakersfield.”

Turns out, the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative did indeed used to be located in South Central Los Angeles, but were somewhat recently forced to move their farm north. As noted by a recent L.A. Times article, the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative is very much focused on social objectives as opposed to simply lining their pockets. In addition to selling Certified Organic goods at farmers’ markets, they also offer a subsidized CSA box for $15 for those who may not normally be able to afford the “luxury” of organic goods to $40 for those who can and wish to help cover the cost of the less affluent families.

The South Central Farmers’ Cooperative will most definitely be my stop for veggies for at least the next few weeks.  Not only is their produce fresh and delicious (and certifiably organic), but they are committed to bringing quality, sustainably grown food to everyone – not matter where they come from or what they may or may not have access to. In doing so, they are truly pioneering the field of food justice.

In celebration of such a socially conscious addition to our Thursday night market, pick up some of the SCFC’s fresh, still-on-the-vine spinach; it’s in season and it’s some of the best I’ve ever had.  Sautee, throw into a smoothie, or combine with the following ingredients to really savor some spring flavor.

Easy Spinach Salad

Adapted from

3 cups fresh spinach from the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative booth
½ cup dried cranberries
Handful of pine nuts
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

  • In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach with cranberries and pine nuts. Add the vinaigrette and toss well.  Top with goat cheese, toss the salad lightly and serve.
Ron Rosen March 30, 2011 at 03:55 AM
Don't ever eat a whole bunch of pine nuts at once. It could take you a week to get the bitter taste out of your mouth. Pine nuts are fine in small doses!
Katharine Ballas April 08, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Laurie, thanks for your kind words. Glad you've been enjoying the column! I've been loving yours, too. Ron, good to know! I've never eaten a large dose of pine nuts, but now I certainly won't try!
Ron Rosen April 08, 2011 at 04:58 AM
I found out the hard way! Were you at the City Council on 4/6?
Katharine Ballas April 08, 2011 at 04:59 PM
I wasn't - why do you ask?
Pat May 23, 2011 at 10:22 PM
depends on the kind of pine nuts - native california pinones won't do that.


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