What $100 Million Gets You: A Pretty Decent Farmers' Market in OC Great Park

Oranges on the ground, oranges in the sky... maybe someday orange trees in the park, too.
Oranges on the ground, oranges in the sky... maybe someday orange trees in the park, too.
Dave Lieberman

The OC Great Park currently under construction at the former MCAS El Toro isn't much of anything yet. There's the giant orange balloon that raises you 500 feet above the ground ("look at all the places to be that aren't here!"), a free carousel, the world's least interesting visitor's center, a playground, and a very expensive-looking but hardly readable timeline on the old runway. They're only slightly more than $100 million into a projected cost of $1.1 billion, but it's finally starting to look like more than a cracked old runway.

Starting last weekend, however, there was actually a reason to come to the Great Park: a new Orange County Farm Bureau-run farmers' market.

When we arrived, several employees were directing traffic (the only developed part of the Great Park is pretty much smack in the center); when we left, people were vulturing for parking. Really? Really? There's a zillion acres of empty land in the Great Park, but not enough parking? That's not OCFB's fault: that's OCGP's fault, and it's ridiculous. Rope off another chunk of land while you design it; we don't care if it's landscaped. Very little else is...

The market is actually very large for a just-started market during the off-season: there was plenty of produce. Given the season, this ran to broccolis and cauliflowers, hardy lettuces, apples and year-round citrus; it's not fair to judge the produce in November.

The folks at OCFB do need to find people to sell meats and cheeses, and maybe try and limit the number of peanut vendors (I think I saw three) and cupcake vendors (four). At the parking lot end of the market were five food trucks, and walking from the trucks to the produce led past a lot of familiar artisans: the Madamesac booth from the Saturday UCI market, the doggy dinners, the pasta and sauces from Mangi con Amore, and of course "IIIIIIIIII-talian butter rum cake!" from Dolce Monachelli's.

There are a couple of gardening vendors at the far end of the market, which is a fantastic idea, and also seating for people who want to eat the stuff they've bought (or the food from the trucks). You can visit the Farm & Food Lab, which is run by volunteers teaching and studying for the Master Gardeners certification.

When the winter produce comes in, and with a little bit more tending, this will be a very good place to go on Sunday mornings. Perhaps eventually, and with cautious application of nearly a billion dollars, the park will grow up around it.

The OC Great Park farmers' market is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enter the Great Park from Sand Canyon Rd. at the 5 freeway; turn left at the T intersection and follow the oranges painted on the roadway toward the orange balloon.


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