The Ocean Beach Farmers Market traces its origins back to the late 1980s; Ocean Beach was struggling to revitalize its downtown area, which looked bleak because of loss of business and general community fervor. After numerous town hall meetings and workshops, residents put together a list of projects and events they wanted to enact or revive. One item on that list was a farmers market.
Thus, in 1992 the first OB Farmers Market was funded and set up on Newport Avenue, two blocks from the beach. It was and still is managed by the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA), a private non-profit merchants guild.
Denny Knox is the executive director of the OBMA, and has overseen the running of Ocean Beach Farmers Market since its inception. Even with all the excitement surrounding the farmers market, it took five years for it to be able to sustain itself. Until then, the OBMA was pouring money into it to keep it afloat. To combat that issue, Knox said, “We made a concerted effort to bring visitors here and make this a destination for people who like an eclectic community. There’s not a lot of places like Ocean Beach.”
Moreover, OBMA listened to community feedback on the farmers market. “People made suggestions all along. Having music, having crafters, and we have a number of local merchants who go out and go to the farmers market even though they have a nice shop,” said Knox.
Now, the attraction has evolved into a unique mix of local music and booths.
“We’ve had a good number of businesses start here at the farmers market,” she said. “There’s quite a few people who made a product and they’ve been able to branch out and get it in stores.”
There are a myriad of reasons as to why the Ocean Beach Farmers Market has stayed so popular. “It’s fun. It’s just fun. It’s very different. OB is a very social place,” said Knox. “If you like people-watching you’ll love our farmers market.”
Moreover, the farmers market is close and convenient to many. Not only is it just two blocks from the beach, but it is also nested in the downtown area, surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars.
The market is also within walking distance for many, and for those further out, the 35 and 923 bus routes have a stop right next to one end of the market.
On the longevity of the Ocean Beach Farmers Market, Knox beamed, “I’m surprised at how the farmers market has gone on for so long and how rock solid it has been over the years. I really appreciate it because we want it to be successful.”
The loyalty of the Ocean Beach residents also greatly contributed to the success as well as the OBMA’s efforts to spread the word. Indeed, there are now around 100 booths, some three-quarters of whom have been around for a long time. OBMA has also found that about 45 percent of the farmers market visitors are not from the area.
OBMA does not only work with the Ocean Beach Farmers Market, though. The market makes enough to sustain itself and then some. “The extra funds allow us to plow back into the community by doing projects and programs that are needed to make OB better,” Knox said.
OBMA has a hand in various community events such as beautification and small fairs.
When asked if there were any changes, reasonable or unreasonable, she wanted to enact on the OB Farmers Market, Knox mused, “I would expand the street by four feet. I would also like to string lights across the palm trees all the way down the street. So when it’s at night or at dusk, those lights would kick in and we don’t need to have our own lights.”
Knox also expressed a desire to have an area devoted to cooking classes at the farmers market, but unfortunately there is no space for anything of the sort to be possible.
The Ocean Beach Farmers Market is located at 4900 Newport Ave. It takes place every week on Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association is located at 1868 Bacon St. OBMA will also be having a giveaway of reusable produce bags on Wednesday, May 17.