The arrival of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables signals the beginning of a new season. In Lincoln Heights, the scent of such produce has given rise to the neighborhood’s curiosity over a relatively new phenomenon.

Funded by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, the Lincoln Heights Farmers Market has become a gathering place for locals, farmers and vendors to partake in a communal experience that reminds us of the importance — and joys — of healthy eating.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Sandie Castaneda, who unexpectedly bumped into her grandmother at the market. “I like that it’s just people coming together and supporting each other locally.”

Her grandmother, Amalia Montes de Oca, had just stepped out of the hairdresser when she discovered the market. She felt that it would provide her with access to vegetables, with the hope of successfully controlling her diabetes.

Pauline Martinez, a USC employee who sponsored the initiative, explained the significance of such community space: “A farmers market in Lincoln Heights means many different things to different people, and yet they are curiously linked to the same value — to be the best we can be in a healthy environment…. Whether it’s the entrepreneur selling fruits and vegetables, the artisan, the baker, the hot food vendor or the entertainer looking for an audience. They/we all want to be connected to a place.”

Peaches and lemons are prime for purchase. (Photo/Melisa Acoba)

Peaches and lemons are prime for purchase. (Photo/Melisa Acoba)

Mario Maruffo, vice president of the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce, added, “The partnership between USC and all this makes it possible for not only providing good food, but educating people about the importance of eating good food.”

Zul Surani, a member of the Lincoln Heights Farmers Market Committee and executive director of community partnerships for the USC Health Sciences Campus, added: “This effort was made possible through staff and faculty contributions that support community enrichment. The university is proud to support collaborative efforts such as the farmers market and many others to make healthier choices easier choices.”

The market is currently operated by the Lincoln Heights Benefits Association of Los Angeles every Wednesday at North Broadway and Daly Street from 3 to 7 p.m.

Moving forward, Martinez hopes that “people who live, work and travel through Lincoln Heights will continue to create and to contribute to a place that fills a great need in this community. We need healthy food choices and we need a place to connect, share ideas and gain knowledge on health and wellness on a weekly basis. The folks are willing, but the challenges are great.”

— Melisa Acoba