First Farmers’ Market recognized by Kuehl

After about 20 years of kicking the idea around, Malibu finally has its own farmers’ market. The inaugural event Sunday at Malibu City Hall hosted about a dozen vendors who offered merchandise varying from fresh produce to cut flowers, bonsai trees and pickled baby corn.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Malibu City Council members presented a certificate of recognition from State Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl to Cornucopia Farms, the group responsible for organizing the market. Accepting the honor, Debra Bianco, president of Cornucopia Farms, described the school program that will be funded by revenue raised by the market.

Students will receive community credit by teaching other students about organic farming.

“Children teaching children,” Bianco said.

Part of the program will be to grow produce, which will be sold at future markets.

The vice president of Cornucopia Farms, Remy O’Neill, recounted a brief history of Bianco’s leadership.

“Two years ago in June, Debra told me she wanted to give something back to the community,” said O’Neill. “She proposed a market and a teaching program. It was a sweet thought, but I never thought she would carry it out. But she started gathering information, and by that August we had incorporated.”

That was the inception of Cornucopia Farms, a non-profit, community-based action group.

To give impetus to the market, Malibu City Council provided a $20,000 grant, Cornucopia which matched with donations from the community. There was a maze of agencies to be dealt with to get the market going, some of which were county health, agriculture, the sheriff, the city, the courts and the library.

Susan Nissman, senior field deputy for County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, provided “a magic wand to cut through the bureaucracy,” Bianco said.

For instance, Yaroslavsky’s office asked the county to waive the first six months rent on the market space while the market gets on its feet.

Vendors expressed satisfaction with the day’s business.

Jose Jaime, whose stand sells vegetable, represented his family’s business, Jaime Farms, from the City of Industry near L.A. He said that his farm was recruited at a Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in February.

“It was an extremely good day,” said Jaime who plans to return.

The Rosendahl fruit vendors came to Malibu from their farm near Fresno. Sisters Stephanie and Kathie Rosendahl said that Bianco recruited them by phone in Fresno. Their farm also does a Sunday market in Hollywood, and they said doing two locations is more work. They also indicated they would return.

Malibu City Mayor Tom Hasse said, “The hard work of Debra, Remy, and Denny (Denny Melle, past secretary-treasurer of Cornucopia Farms,) is now paying off. City Council finally did something universally popular.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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