A Culinary Landmark: The Story and Charm of Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market


Discover. Learn. Connect.

A Culinary Landmark: The Story and Charm of Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market

July 3, 2024
CA Grown Creators

Meet Them Here

Read Bios »
Eat the Season!
Sign Up For Weekly Recipes
Eat the Season!
Sign Up For Weekly Recipes
« Back to CA Grown Blog
A Culinary Landmark: The Story and Charm of Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market

A Culinary Landmark: The Story and Charm of Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market

Situated at the corner of Third and Fairfax, the Los Angeles Original Farmers Market (known to locals as The Original Farmers Market) is a beloved and historic symbol of the city’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. Since its inception in 1934, the market has transformed from a modest congregation of farmers selling produce from the backs of their trucks to a bustling hub of food, goods, and community life. We visited recently and chatted with Ilysha Buss, Director of Marketing and Communications.

exterior shot of the original LA Farmers market

The Humble Beginnings

The land where the Farmers Market sits was originally a dairy farm. Ilysha explains, “In the 1880s, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Gilmore moved to L.A. from Illinois to pursue the American dream, and he started a dairy farm. And so he had a dairy farm here for about 20-plus years.”

Then oil was discovered around 1900, she goes on to say, and the milking cows were swapped for black gold. But city planners didn’t like the idea of oil derricks in the middle of a dense population center. As a result, the oil business eventually closed. By the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression, the land was just a dirt lot -ripe for a new idea.  

A group of struggling local farmers came together with a plan: they decided to sell their produce directly to consumers. In this way they could eliminate the middlemen, and boost their meager profits. The Gilmore family agreed to let them set up shop on their vacant property at the corner of Third and Fairfax, where they pulled up in their trucks and laid out their fresh fruits and vegetables. This makeshift market was an immediate success, drawing homemakers and residents eager to buy the freshest produce at reasonable prices.

inside the courtyard at the Los Angeles Original Farmers Market

The Original Farmers Market’s Evolution Over the Decades

As Los Angeles blossomed, so too did the market. The early makeshift stalls gradually gave way to permanent stalls under a series of open-sided sheds. By the 1940s and 1950s, market expansion meant a variety of vendors selling not only produce but also meat, seafood, and specialty foods. It became a place where one could find exotic ingredients and everyday staples side by side.

The 1960s and 70s brought gourmet grocers and international food vendors, reflecting the city’s evolving palate and increasingly diverse population. In the early aughts, the adjacent area was developing into what is now known as The Grove. The Grove is a fashionable retail and entertainment complex that enhanced the market’s appeal as a tourist destination without overshadowing its traditional charm

“The market sits in the heart of the Fairfax District, which is one of the oldest and most historic neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And what’s terrific about it is it’s close to everywhere,” says Ilysha. 

In addition to the Grove, the Original Farmers Market is just ten minutes from Beverly Hills, Museum Row with the new Academy Museum, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, the Peterson Automotive Museum, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “You could spend three days in the Miracle Mile area, but certainly if you just have one or two days to spend in this area, there’s plenty to do and a little bit of everything for everyone in the family,” encourages Ilysha.

The Original Farmers Market Today

CA GROWN produce at the original farmers market

Today, the Original Farmers Market is a must-visit landmark that provides a slice of Los Angeles history, along with a taste of its contemporary cultural fusion. The market hosts nearly 100 vendors and is celebrated for its high-quality, diverse offerings. The brightly colored stalls have a distinctly nostalgic and kitschy feel. Instead of becoming a tourist trap, it remains an institution that is frequented by both Angelinos and out-of-towners alike.

“We have the two best butchers in the city. We have a fishmonger, we have poultry stores, we have specialty markets with cheese and Mediterranean items. So we’re really, really proud of that. But in addition to all the fresh groceries, we have restaurants, we have cuisine from around the world, we have retail services, we have a post office, we have a newsstand,” says Ilysha.

Visitors can explore a variety of stalls specializing in fresh produce grown throughout the Golden State. Farm Fresh Produce and Farm Boy Produce are known for their wide selection of locally sourced fruits and vegetables. “In addition to your carrots and celery and apples and strawberries of course, they also specialize in some interesting California-grown products like cherimoya, dragon fruit, and things that are a little bit unusual,” Ilysha advises. They will also help you select fruits and veggies at peak ripeness, and even recommend how to prepare them.

You will also find 326 Beer and Wine, a bar located in the middle of the stalls. The 326 Beer and Wine bar has a strong emphasis on local producers. “We call it the farmers market of beer and wine because they specialize in beer and wine [produced] within a two-hour drive of Los Angeles,” Ilysha says. 

Little Johns Toffee Maker

The Butcher, the Baker and the Ice Cream Maker

The butchers (Huntington Meats and Merconda’s Meats) and poultry merchants (Puritan Poultry and Farmers Market Poultry) offer an array of California grown products as does the seafood market, Monsieur Marcel Seafood.

California-grown produce finds its way into much of the prepared specialty foods offered at the Farmers Market as well. “For example, Little John’s English Toffee, which has been here also 80 plus years, are very proud of the fact they use California butter and California almonds and you can actually watch the toffee being made…Food and Wine Magazine and other people have lauded as the best toffee you can get in the United States,” says Ilysha.

Another highlight is Bennett’s Ice Cream, where the tradition of handcrafted ice cream using California dairy and fruit continues, from its founding in 1946 to today.

“Whether it’s getting the freshly made baklava from our new Mediterranean market merchant with honey and almonds from California and pistachios, or going to our Magic Nut and Candy Company where you can get the chocolate dipped apples from California, or a variety of mixed fruit and nuts. It’s really a wonderful experience,” remarks Ilysha.

Cultural and Social Hub

Beyond the food, the market is a vibrant gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Regular events, such as live music performances, seasonal festivals, and culinary workshops, add to the community atmosphere, making every visit unique.

The Original Farmers Market isn’t just a place to shop; it’s a place to experience the heart of Los Angeles. It represents the city’s dynamic evolution, its rich agricultural roots, and its embrace of global flavors—all while retaining the charm of a simpler time. 

“I think it’s really special that the farmer’s market is not only the home for these generations-old family businesses, but also these new entrepreneurs who have these great ideas and want to share them with L.A. and with the world,” Ilysha says.

Whether you’re looking for the freshest California-grown ingredients for your next meal, a taste of Los Angeles’s diverse culinary scene, or just a pleasant day out, the Original Farmers Market promises something for everyone. As it continues to grow and change, it remains a timeless reflection of the city’s vibrant spirit.

Visit L.A.’s Original Farmers Market

Fresh Asparagus at LA Original Farmers Market


6333 W 3rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Article written by Alison Needham for California Grown. Images by James Collier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New Member Sign Up

Your participation is appreciated. Please fill-out the form below and a Buy California Marketing Agreement (BCMA) representative will contact you. Or, you may contact the BCMA at info@californiagrown.org.

Download Pdf Form

Licensing Sign Up

Your participation is appreciated. Please fill-out the form below and a Buy California Marketing Agreement (BCMA) representative will contact you. Or, you may contact the BCMA at 916-441-5302.

Certification Mark Licensing Agreement Service Mark Compliance agreement