‘Waiting for that miracle’: Malibu Farmers Market hopes to remain at Legacy Park

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The Malibu Farmers Market continued to operate at the Legacy Park on Sunday, Jan. 14. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Vendors and shoppers alike share their appreciation for Debra Bianco’s dedication and leadership  

As the future location of the Malibu Farmers Market continues to be a concern among vendors and residents, the market continues to provide residents with their weekly groceries at Legacy Park.

Despite the uncertainty, Debra Bianco, president and co-founder of the Cornucopia Foundation, said they’re still remaining hopeful for the market to continue operating at Legacy Park.

“We made an agreement with the county, the site map. Are we thrilled with that site map? No, it’s not our original footprint, but you have to take what you can, so we accepted it,” Bianco said. “Our paperwork with the county was handed in June [2023] and I did call the county on Thursday and they did ask me if I could send it again — only update it. They wanted to make sure all our documents [are] updated, that’s why we’re not there now; as far as we know, we need to get back their safe and we can keep our market going on. I have no idea what that might look like as of yet, but, good god, there’s always that miracle.”

During the Malibu City Council meeting on Jan. 8, the council directed the Malibu Farmers Market to return to the LA County/Santa Monica College property and said they will continue the discussion after the market returns.

At the meeting, the discussion was about receiving a sign-off from the county and the fire department.

“They [the county] have received a new site map layout that is currently under review, but as to any agreement, signing of the license is still under its current status and is not complete,” Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown said at the City Council meeting. “It’s my understanding that some of the documents are still pending. Some of the required documents [are] listed in the motion and that was approved by the county supervisors on Sept. 26, and until those items are provided by the current organizer, unfortunately, they do not have the permits and they will not able to operate on [the] county lot.” 

Bianco said they are waiting for the county to get a signature from the fire department but said she received a message from the county last Thursday, Jan. 11.

“I just got a message from the county to take away more tents, so they think the clearance would be good for the fire department,” Bianco said. 

“We don’t know until we get there,” Bianco said about the amount of vendors that will be allowed at the new location.

While the Cornucopia Foundation has continued to operate its market at Legacy Park while the parties negotiate the contours of the area that the market can operate in upon its return to SMC, the county stands ready to welcome the Farmers Market back to the SMC parking lot.

“We are excited to welcome the Malibu Farmers Market back to the Malibu Civic Center now that the beautiful Santa Monica Community College satellite campus is complete,” Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath said on Sept. 26, after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed her motion addressing the Cornucopia Foundation, operator of the Malibu Farmers Market, returning to the county-owned SMC parking lot.

Since last year, dozens of vendors and customers have continued to support the market by sending letters and speaking during public comment at City Council meetings.

Ingrid Yael Jensen has been attending and performing at the Malibu Farmers Market for nearly seven years and loves the atmosphere the market provides.

“Malibu has a unique, diverse group of people who live here and they always inspire me to be who you are, and I want to stay at Legacy Park because it’s absolutely beautiful,” Jensen said. “I feel like it’s actually magical, I feel like all of the people that come here are much happier — they love it.”

15 Malibu Farmers Market 2024 SamBravo
Debra Bianco and Ingrid Yael Jensen are shown at the Malibu Farmers Market. Jensen has been attended the market as a vendor and supporter for seven years.

Jensen said she’s impressed and inspired by everyone who has been advocating for the Farmers Market. 

“I’ve never seen a stronger woman that I know,” Jensen said of Bianco. “She doesn’t give up, she is a pillar of strength, she’s also very inspiring and we wouldn’t be who we are at the Malibu Farmers Market [without her].” 

Shade McCullough has been a vendor at the Malibu Farmers Market for four years and said the market at Legacy Park provides a more enjoyable atmosphere.

“We started around the time the Woolsey Fire started, and we’ve slowly started growing and expanding,” McCullough said. “What separates this market from any other market is, for one, the environment. At Legacy Park, it’s much more exciting and welcoming. I do a handful of markets throughout the week, and this is my favorite by far.”

McCullough said he noticed both the vendors and customers genuinely enjoy the market being at Legacy Park, “it’s a wonderful time.”

Vendor and owner of Hoyt Family Vineyards Carol Hoyt has had her wine on display at the market and expressed her support of the market to operate at Legacy Park. 

“I really commend [Bianco] for her efforts in supporting the Farmers Market, it’s a nonprofit organization and she knows how important it is to everyone who comes here, it’s a tradition for people every Sunday,” she said. “You look around here, everyone’s here with their kids, it’s a great time to reconnect with family and friends.”

Former Public Works Commissioner James Palmer was shopping at the market and expressed his support for the market to continue operating at Legacy Park.

“I’ve been a supporter of the Malibu Farmers Market since day one since they did a parking at the Chili Cook-Off Site, but I believe this issue of whether the market should stay or go should be based on public opinion, not some clause that was written in an agreement that was created 30 years ago,” Palmer said. “This is best thing for the community. The location makes it super special, and I just can’t believe anyone would want to move it from this location to somewhere else, it’s really the ‘moving in the wrong direction.’ I hope the city can understand that this is best place, it’s a community event.”

Bianco expressed her appreciation for everyone who has shown their support.

“That’s what keeps me going, to have the support of all the residents and vendors,” she said. “When I come here, I get all the energy from Monday through Saturday.”