Freshness is closer than you think
Pierce College Farm Market worker Fermanda Gonzales fixes strawberries on a slow day at the De Soto Avenue and Victory Boulevard corner organic store at Pierce in Woodland Hills, Calif. on June 27, 2012. Gonzales has been working at Pierce for five years.Photo by Javier Zazueta.
Fermanda Gonzales stacks straberries into larger containers during the early day at the Pierce College Farm Market in the corner of De Soto Avenue and Victory Boulevard at Pierce In Woodland Hills, Calif. on June 27, 2012. Fermanda started working during the Halloween Harvest and now has been working at Pierce for five years. Strawberries are sold in stacks of three in a large container for seven dollars. Photo By Javier Zazueta.
Back in the 2005, only a red open barn and overgrown grass that had turned yellow from the heat could be seen from the corner of DeSoto Avenue and Victory Boulevard.
Today, in its place stands the Piece College Farm Center along with many other attractions that are open to the public.
Robert McBroom is the current Farm Center Director.
His dust covered shorts, worn t-shirt and backwards cap are perfect for working out in the field.
As he looks over the produce that is displayed inside the market, he smiles.
“Everything we [sell] is either grown here on the farm or we’re receiving from other farmers locally grown,” McBroom explains.
Having a direct connection with the farmers ensures that the produce is being treated correctly.
“That’s what makes this special,” McBroom said. “We know what’s being used on the particular produce.”
There are two large metal fans that cool the barn, also used as a storefront.
The wind carries the sweet smell of fresh strawberries.
There are samples of both the strawberries and The Topanga Quality Honey that is for sale, properly packaged in teddy bear jars.
Frank Paglianti is one of the newest members of the family friendly farm.
He works inside the market as well as out on the fields.
“I enjoy growing stuff and planting stuff, and just watching things grow,” Paglianti said.
It is people like Paglianti that give the market an old fashion feel in which service does not end when money exchanges hands.
He recently carried groceries to a woman’s car that she had just purchased.
This is a common practice of his, according to McBroom.
Rachel Lipson is too young to remember when a local market such as this was “the norm.”
She was on a mission to find fresh corn with a friend.
“The sign was very confusing, we had to walk through the college to find the market,” Lipson said.
She was pleased to see that the corn was indeed fresh and covered with a wet towel.
“That’s how you do it,” Lipson said.
Along with the fresh corn she also bought a fresh white peach, which she immediately washed and took a bite out of.
The juice from the peach dripped down from the corners of her mouth.
“It’s delicious,” she said, still chewing.
Fermanda Gonzales, 22, has been working at the market for the last 5 years.
Like Paglianti, she works both in the storefront and on the farm.
She trains ponies, in order for them to be able to act accordingly when children are riding them.
Over the past five years, she has seen new customers every day, but knows her regulars.
“We get the same comments [from customers], how it’s really good, good quality,” Gonzales said.
She has also seen how the market has changed – when McBroom first started, there was no running water or electricity.
Since then minor as well as major projects have been tackled.
However, McBroom still would like to see a paved parking lot as well as restrooms.
The market is one of the last places on the Pierce campus where restrooms are not easily accessible.
“We rent out restrooms when we have events,” McBroom said.
Those looking for fresh corn, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and cucumbers should stop by and check out the farm.
There are also jams and preservatives that line the shelves, as well as Dr. Shapiro’s Joke Book that is also available.
The farm center is open 7-days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
To learn more about the Pierce College Farm Market visit: http://www.piercefarmcenter.com/