While there’s no question that Farmers Market is home to a tasty line-up of international restaurants and eateries, the famed public market got its start when a dozen local farmers and a few other merchants came together in 1934 with the mission of selling produce and other products from the back of their trucks.
Today, two produce stalls make their home at the Market, including the popular Farm Fresh Produce. Owner Armando Puente spoke with Farmers Market on what it takes to run a busy produce stand.
Getting Started at Farmers Market
When he was just 19 years old, Armando emigrated from Monterey, Mexico to Los Angeles, where he began working for Charlie Lopez, a member of a well-known Los Angeles farming dynasty. The Lopez Ranch, which was especially known for its field-fresh corn, was located in Playa del Rey, and according to the Los Angeles Times, was the “last grower-owned, open-air market in the city of Los Angeles outside the San Fernando Valley.”
When a family feud divided the Lopez family, Charlie Lopez left the ranch to run his own produce stand at Farmers Market and Armando followed him to the new location. Although Armando left the produce stall for a time, when Charlie was ready to sell the stall, Armando jumped at the chance to buy it.
“I buy local whenever I can. I buy strawberries from Long Beach and my oranges from Riverside. I have friends with farms in Fresno, in Colton, throughout California.”
Although Armando works with farmers he trusts, he also makes it a point to visit the farms whenever he has the chance. He is also open to acquiring produce from new or unknown farmers, who often reach out to him to suggest new products. He says it’s important for him to stay aware of what’s out there because there’s always a new way of growing produce and because his customers’ tastes are always changing.
For example, now there’s a bigger interest than ever in organic products. So he’s increasing the amount of produce he buys from farmers utilizing organic growing processes. Of course, he says, because organic produce costs more than traditional produce, not everyone is ready to go organic, which means he provides a mix of products to meet everyone’s needs.
Popular Fruits & Veggies
Additionally, Armando says that everyone is eating healthier these days.
“Everyone wants to eat green leaves. I remember a few years ago, nobody cared about Kale, but now everyone wants it. “
Another newly popular product is nopales or cactus plants.
“The cactus plants are really healthy, they’re very good for you.”
Of course not everyone is familiar with how to cook the cactus plant, but the staff at Farm Fresh Produce can help with cooking tips. Armando recommends buying the plant peeled, with the thorns removed, and then just cooking it over a hot grill.
While Armando says that a few specialty farmers in California do grow nopales, he mostly gets his supply from Mexico.
Also popular at Farm Fresh Produce is the fresh fruit juice kiosk, where customers can order from a menu of pre-selected juice blends, or they can create their own custom blend.
“It’s really popular, people are drinking a lot of juice. Easy to take it to go or they can drink it there. “
As to Armando’s favorite fruit? He can’t resist peaches and golden delicious apples.
For people who want tips on eating healthier, Armando recommends just digging in and trying new things.
“There are a lot of fruits and veggies that people have never tried before. By tasting a lot of unknown items, they’re sure to find something they like.”
Armando even makes it easy for people to create the perfect veggie combo. Customers can call in advance and have a bag or box of produce waiting for them.
“We fulfill a lot of phone orders,” says Armando.
Not as well known, is the fact that Farm Fresh Produce also offers delivery service and will make free deliveries within a five mile radius of Farmers Market. Although there isn’t really a minimum amount for delivery, usually people who have produce delivered will order at least $15 to $20 worth of items.
Armando says that fruit platters are a popular item for pickup and delivery; many people order them as birthday or office gifts.
While produce delivery can certainly make life easier in a time crunch, Armando recommends coming down in person to inspect the colorful variety of produce available on a daily basis at Farm Fresh Produce, and to take advantage of fresh-from-the-farm products.
Farm Fresh Produce is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Fresh produce tends to arrive in the morning, so come early for the best variety and selection.