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BEVERLY HILLS : First Local Farmers' Market Proves Pleasingly Fruitful

August 11, 1994|SUSAN STEINBERG

A record number of people turned out for the first Beverly Hills Farmers' Market on Sunday, with the crowds also setting new sales records for an opening day of the popular, open-air markets.

The four-hour event drew about 5,000 people to a one-block area in the city's business district where 27 farmers sold $23,600 in produce, according to market organizers' calculations.

Until Sunday, the Westwood Village Farmers' Market had led the sales figures for similarly sized markets on an opening day, with revenues of about $21,000 and crowds of 4,000, said Marion Kalb, director of the Southland Farmers' Market Assn., which helps organize and manage certified farmers' markets. An opening day is considered good if it brings in at least $10,000, she said.

"The market exceeded our expectations; really it was exactly what we hoped it would be," said Beverly Hills Mayor Vicki Reynolds, who lauded the festival-like atmosphere, complete with a Dixieland-style band.

Kalb attributed the big draw to growing interest in such markets, the cachet of a Beverly Hills location and publicity.

"The growers were running out of some items by 11 a.m.," Kalb said, adding that next week the farmers will bring more produce. "They could have sold a lot more."

Kalb warned that it may take a few weeks to determine whether the market will have long-term success. But she said there are already plans to add more farmers. The only complaints organizers said they received were that the prices were higher at the Farmers' Market than at a supermarket. Cantaloupe, for example, were sold at the Farmers' Market for $2 each, while the price at nearby Pavilions was 89 cents.

"We may do a cost comparison," said Gale Trachtenberg, Beverly Hills' market manager. "But overall, certified farmers' markets have lower prices and the quality is higher."

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