As a 117-year-old company (Fun Fact: even though, The Original Farmers Market was started in 1934, the A.F. Gilmore company that created The Farmers Market and Gilmore Oil was incorporated in 1900!), it’s safe to say that we take our long-standing and rich history very seriously. In fact, the company has its very own full-time archivist.
From searching high and low for Gilmore and Farmers Market artifacts to managing a database of historical records, archivist Brett Arena’s job is unlike anyone else you’ll meet here. In this inaugural installment of “Meet the Faces Behind The Original Farmers Market,” get a glimpse of what it’s like to be the Farmers Market archivist.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Most days are made up of a variety of tasks. I scan and provide photos for various purposes. I provide historical background of the Market and its past tenants when people request it. I give tours of the Market for school groups or historically-inclined organizations and sometimes make presentations outside the Market. I also acquire historical items that have a link to the Market, The A.F. Gilmore Company and The Gilmore Oil Company and other venues that once were here. In addition, I inventory, arrange and provide access to archival, as well as business records, the management of which are also part of my duties.
What is your favorite part about the job?
Seeing the people that make up this place—the ones that are here every day from people in leadership roles to the ones behind the scenes and knowing that they are part of the continuum of this place. Many of the shops and restaurants are family owned and to know that their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts had their time here and laid a foundation for them has a lot of meaning for me.
In what ways has the Farmers Market changed since 1934? In what ways has it stayed the same?
When the Market was started most people were hurting financially. Many had relocated either recently or in the previous decade when the town was booming. These recent arrivals often were from parts of the country that were socially, economically and geographically different than the environment they now found themselves in. They found opportunity here and perhaps something that was reminiscent of what they left back home. Today it is much the same, just as Los Angeles has become the home of people from all over the world. The restaurants, especially, represent so many cultures. As we like to say, you can eat in 23 different languages here at Farmers Market.
What is one thing that people would find surprising about the history of the Market?
Probably that it once was a dairy farm. Many people know that Los Angeles was, and still is to some extent, an oil-producing region and that this area was a part of that industry in the early days, but not many think of dairy cows and the agricultural economy that was once here not that long ago.
Learn more about the history of The Farmers Market and The A.F. Gilmore Company on our History page.