California Certified Farmers' Markets (CFM's) were established in 1978, when then-governor Jerry Brown signed legislation known as the Direct Marketing Act. This enabled California farmers to sell their own produce directly to consumers at locations designated by the Department of Agriculture. In 1979, the Interfaith Hunger Coalition sponsored the first Los Angeles County farmers' market consisting of four farmers in the parking lot of a church in Gardena. This humble beginning has quickly grown into a vigorous statewide movement consisting of over 700 weekly markets.
The Santa Monica Farmers Markets were established by then-Mayor Ruth Yanatta-Goldway. The inaugural Santa Monica Farmers Market opened Wednesday July 11, 1981 in Santa Monica's downtown retail district with goals of providing reasonably priced, high quality produce to the city's population, and bringing more foot traffic into the downtown area. The Wednesday market met with instant success in its first year. Today, the Wednesday Farmers Market is widely recognized as one of the largest and most diverse grower-only CFM's in the nation. Some nine thousands food shoppers, and many of Los Angeles' best known chefs and restaurants, are keyed to the seasonal rhythms of the weekly Wednesday Market.
The Pico Farmers Market was established in March, 1982 in response to combined organizing efforts of Pico area community groups including churches, neighborhood associations and youth job service providers. It is located in Virginia Avenue Park, and draws its customer base from the local Santa Monica and west side communities. Free cooking classes, offered in partnership with the non-profit Center for Community and Family Services, are an ongoing feature of the Pico Farmers Market which has the use of a kitchen located adjacent to the market. It is a pick up site for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s Salad Bar Program throughout the school year.
The Saturday Downtown Farmers Market, also known as the Organic Market, opened in May 1991. As Santa Monica's second CFM, it had a different mission to fulfill. With the passage of the California Organic Foods Act of 1990, consumers were eager for more organic produce and another market for weekend shopping. The Organic Market boasts the largest percentage of Certified Organic growers of the City’s four markets.
Established January 1995, the Sunday Market is the youngest member of the robust family of four. Developed in collaboration with the local business district association, Ocean Park resident group and property partners the Victorian and Heritage Museum in the coldest and opening in the slowest month of the year the Sunday market was met with overwhelming community support. The market quickly proved its worth as a place where local residents could shop for fresh produce. Over time the Sunday Farmers Market developed a character distinct from the other three. In addition to an array of high quality produce, the Sunday Market features food booths, retail businesses from the local business district, live music, arts and crafts, and activities for children, such as face-painting, and pony rides.