Organizers of the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market are looking to make changes in how the weekly operation is run, which is part of a larger effort to attract more customers.
The market, which is set up on Broxton Avenue between Kinross and Weyburn avenues every Thursday, has been part of the Westwood community for 15 years. Featuring 30 local farmers and vendors, the market places emphasis on fresh produce and agricultural products, according to its website. The market also hosts vendors that sell clothing, jewelry and artwork.
But the Westwood Village Improvement District is looking to hire new leadership for the market in the coming weeks, which could change the type of products sold in the market, said Andrew Thomas, executive director of the improvement association.
The Westwood Business Improvement District, a subcommittee of the improvement association, began evaluating the market’s current management last September, Thomas said.
Many leaders in the community felt the market was not providing adequate produce and agricultural products, which was likely a result of how it was managed, said Christian Irwin, who owns a property in the Village and represents local business owners in the Westwood Village Improvement Association.
“In its current state, the market feels more like a flea market than (a) farmer’s market,” Irwin said.
He added there was also an overall agreement that the market did not seem to be drawing in enough customers.
“That’s why the board went out to look for new management,” he said.
Steve Whipple, the current manager for the market, said he did not agree with the board’s decision to look for a possible replacement.
“I felt the market was on the right trajectory,” Whipple said. “I thought the market would have improved if operations kept moving forward in their current direction, and if we worked together with (stakeholders in) the Village.”
After receiving the results from the survey in May, the Business Improvement District, which oversees businesses in the Village, started looking for an operator to take over, Thomas said.
A prominent farmer’s market operator, named Raw Inspiration, was the only business to respond to the request, Thomas said.
A agreement between Raw Inspiration, which manages more than 20 farmer’s markets throughout Los Angeles County, and the Westwood Village Improvement Association is still in the works, said John Edwards, president of Raw Inspiration.
But owners of the corporation already have changes in mind for the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market, he said.
Raw Inspiration intends to shift the market’s focus more to produce and agricultural products, and establish a stronger sense of community within the marketplace.
The Improvement Association aims to reach a 60-to-40 ratio of produce to material goods, such as clothing, jewelry and artwork, under new management, Irwin said.
The shift will likely force the market to let go of some non-produce vendors, though the change is not for certain, Irwin said.
Edwards also added that he would like Raw Inspiration to come in contact with UCLA and have more students come to the market.
“If we are fortunate enough to come to an agreement, one of the things we’d like to do is foster a relationship with the campus, although we don’t know how yet,” Edwards said.
Jasneet Bains, co-president of the campus sustainability group Ecology, Economy, Equity, said she feels a relationship between UCLA and the local farmer’s market this year would be beneficial for both Westwood and the campus.
Last April, through collaboration between E3, ASUCLA and the Undergraduate Students Association Council, the campus held its own farmer’s market for the first time in Bruin Plaza, Bains said. Before that, markets were held in residential areas surrounding the campus.
Bains hopes to cooperate with management in the future to form a relationship between the Westwood and campus markets.
“I would love to get more students involved with the Westwood market,” said Bains, a fourth-year environmental science student.
The Westwood Village Improvement Association hopes to come to a decision at the next board meeting on Oct. 18, though nothing is finalized, Thomas said.