The wheels of the train rumble as they slide on the track into the Highland Park metro station. Just over the fence next to the tracks, white tents line Marmion Way, as a hoard of second hand jackets and shirts dangle from their racks and the smokey warm scent of roasted peanuts and barbacoa permeate the air. The late afternoon sun lends a deep golden light to the Highland Park farmer’s market.
Nestled in a neighborhood that lies between Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, the farmer’s market is a reflection of the area’s shifting demographics, with hints of what used to be before the pricey condos and coffee shops, still apparent.
In the sunlight, a sparkling gleam arises from Xochitl Pacheco’s tent, as rows of earrings, bracelets and rings adorn the entirety of her tables. The earrings bend and twist in a variety of shapes, from hearts to stars that shine almost as beautifully as the ones in the sky. She smiles wide and greets passing customers fondly in Spanish, as if they had known each other all their lives. These weekly interactions have become a norm that Pacheco loves, especially considering that she is a Highland Park resident.
“Before, I was a seamstress, I would have to travel to other places, I didn’t have time to share with the community,” she said. “So now that I’m here, I think I practically know half of Highland Park. And it’s been fun, you get to meet people and they kind of become like your family, after a while. Week after week, you don’t even feel like you’re working, it feels more like a hobby.”
In addition to offering her glittering accessories, the back of her chair has racks of trendy clothing, such as bodysuits and crop tops. For Pacheco, selling these items enhances the experience of being able to leave her customers feeling better about themselves, even after they leave her table.
“I really enjoy [selling jewelry and clothes] , because sometimes, I just enjoy the fact that you’re selling something to somebody that makes them feel good,” she said. “Like they come, sometimes they’re a little sad, and then they put an earring on and it’s like ‘oh my god!’ You just make somebody happy for like a couple of dollars.”
Similar to Pacheco, some feet away, vendor Virginia Ramos enjoys those who come by to see the charming little succulents and other greenery she sells, while also striking up conversations. A blonde woman approaches Ramos, and greets her warmly, calling her “mom” and hugging her. She exclaims how next week she will bring her own mother to come buy something from her next week. They exchange smiles, and before she leaves, Ramos makes sure to tell the woman to “take care of herself”.
“I enjoy doing this stuff, because I love plants and I can share,” she said. “I meet people who love plants too, and other vendors we get along well too.”
Her decision to sell plants came from a former love of hers, which bloomed into her love of selling plants to other plant lovers.
“My late husband had plants of his own, and I had my own plants, and when he passed away, I kind of took care of most of them,” said Ramos. “I didn’t know what to do with a lot of them, so I [decided] to propagate some more and sell them.”
Perusing the racks of clothes at one of the booths, customer Audrey Hale soaked in all the market had to offer, especially since it was her first time there. Though she hadn’t been there for long, she admired the tight knit nature of the market and hopes to return to get Christmas gifts for her loved ones.
“It’s kind of quaint, I feel like each stand has its distinct personality,” she said. ”I like the different options that there are. I feel like people have gotten creative with their stands, and what they have to offer.”
The sunlight starts to lessen, children run and squeal as canvas bags filled with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables swing on shoulders. This market is deemed the “Old LA” farmers market for a reason, for it is a crossroads of Los Angeles culture, community and vitality.
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