Farmers markets are an abundant and valuable resource for Orange County chefs and home cooks. As important as the farmers and vendors are, the individuals who coordinate all those moving parts also have a story to share. This week, I learn more about Lisa David’s role in Orange’s Saturday mainstay.
What is the key to running a successful farmers market?
Our market is a Saturday morning ritual; a place for connection, for delicious, nutritious, healthy food, friendly folks and fun! Since I’ve been the manager, we’ve added market tours, kids’ club, yoga/sound healing, a seed library, storytelling, a market glossary, EBT, Market Match, kids’ shopping carts and amazing farmers and artisans that care about community relationships. I strive to help deepen people’s experiences with the market tour, explaining terms such as the “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen,” regenerative farmers, certified organic, GMOs, human, fermentation, plant-based medicine and face certification. Where else would you want to buy food that nourishes our bodies, minds and spirits and treads lighter on the Earth?
Tell me about the recent changes to the market.
We moved across the street and into a parking lot owned by Chapman University and also into Palm Avenue. Folks love the openness, the flow and the fresh energy. We have a lot more space to add fabulous vendors such as Crema Bakery, who is a big hit with their sweet and savory offerings. We’re working on adding more vegan options such as cashew-based cheese and other healthy food artisans.
Can you give me an example of how you’ve helped connect your farmers with the community?
When I met Ivan Calderon at Taco Mesa, I invited him to have a tour of our market to meet the farmers. He and Adam Navidi of Future Foods Farm in Brea and Edgar Jaime of Black Sheep Farms (Riverside) hit it off immediately. Ivan has been health conscious for many years, so it was a natural step for his restaurants, and he instantly incorporated seasonal farm-to-table salads into his menu (in addition to seasonal veggies). He’s now sourcing pastured eggs, humanely raised meats and seafood that follows Seafood Watch guidelines.
Tell me about #RandomActofMendez.
It’s a project that revolves around a historic court case, Mendez versus Westminster Board of Education, which was a precursor to Brown versus Board of Education. Sandra Robbie won an Emmy for a short documentary about it, and for Hispanic Heritage Month she was at our market handing out the bracelets. The City of Orange has some sites that were segregated (browns and whites), and so it was a good fit for our market.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
Cheese— my love of cheese has made it challenging for me to go vegan. Recently, we added an Italian cheese vendor, and the ricotta is irresistible.
Let’s discuss your mantra (Earth care, people care and fair share) and how it relates to your lifestyle.
My lifestyle integrates this mantra with practices such as reducing meat/fish consumption, using bamboo utensils, my own cup, and making a conscious decision to reduce my plastic footprint, which is quite challenging— Skip the straw, please! With every choice I make, I consider the impacts on the Earth and people. For example, I prefer to buy freshly picked nutritive produce from local farmers to support families and farm workers using Earth-friendly practices, versus supporting a large corporation touting their nutritionally empty organic produce and some CEO’s fifth empty McMansion. I had to go to Whole Foods Market, and noticed how much of the food is packaged in plastic; you don’t have to have your food in plastic from farmers!
Most of my clothes are secondhand, and I enjoy garage sales for furnishings and garden supplies. I like to support businesses that consider the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. My biggest challenge in SoCal is driving everywhere. In the city, it’s easier to get around without a car. Have you ever taken the ecological footprint quiz? It’s enlightening. You can see how many Earths it takes to support your lifestyle. Travel is my biggest footprint.
What’s currently growing in your home garden?
Ashwaganda (an adaptogen widely used in India for medicine), holy basil/tulsi, borage, feverfew, sweet potatoes, blueberries, citrus, culinary herbs and native butterfly weed.
Please elaborate on plant-based medicine.
Plant-based medicine means using plants (leaf, flower, stem, root) in the form of teas, salves, tinctures and food to improve health challenges instead of pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter meds. For example, if I feel a sort throat coming on, I steep fresh ginger, add lemon and honey, and I’ve got an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory tea. Eating seasonally gives our bodies what we need at different times of the year, such as Vitamin C during the cold season.
My kids were the inspiration for using alternative medicine. I started using plant-based medicine when our pediatrician suggested using aloe vera juice for my son’s allergies. I used echinacea and goldenseal root when they got sick and never had any doctor bills, except for wellness checkups. Later, when my daughter was experiencing depression as a teenager, I started growing borage for its edible flowers, and fell in love with the bees it attracted.
In July, I taught a Medicine Wheel Garden workshop that focused on plants that can be used as medicine that was very well-attended. People who missed it asked if we could do another one.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Anaheim. Went to an all-girls Catholic high school. Worked at Disneyland. Earned a paralegal degree from Santa Ana College; BA and MS from Cal State Fullerton. My family brought me back after living in the Bay Area. What’s keeping me here is the new relationships I’ve formed.
Favorite places to eat.
Taco Rosa is the best brunch in OC, with fresh ingredients, GMO-free corn tortillas, fresh juices in their margaritas, and friendly and attentive staff. Others include Cafe Gratitude, Oceans & Earth, True Seasons Organic Kitchen and Taco Mesa for its freshly ground and pressed organic juices, Mountain Rose herbal teas, decadent and delicious desserts, GMO-free corn tortillas made with spinach, garlic and poblano pepper (my family insists on these at home), and the best blackened calamari taco on the planet. Ivan Calderon and I met because my son, Kenny, loved Taco Mesa, and I went in to eat some of Kenny’s favorite food around his birthday.
Hardest life lesson you’ve learned:
How to gracefully survive the death of my sweet son, Kenny, killed by armed robbers at the age of 28. This experience tested my spirituality, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It put me on the path of daily yoga, EMDR therapy and daily meditation.
Last thing you looked up online:
Lyrics to the song James Alley Blues. I love Wilco’s version.
What was the last music festival you attended?
The Ohana Festival in Dana Point. I went to see Eddie Vedder and Ray Lamontagne.
Let’s talk about your transition from environmental planner (and biodynamic farmer) to market manager.
I worked as a public involvement specialist/environmental planner at CH2M HILL in Santa Ana, got a promotion and transferred to Oakland. Got the most dynamic education just living in a conscious culture. After my layoff, I was accepted as a nine-month farm apprentice at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur to do a permaculture design course and grow crops in the most nutrient-dense soil I’ve ever touched. We grew food for the kitchen that fed 300 people three times a day. Then I worked for an organic farmer at the Ferry Building and Noe Valley in San Francisco and learned a lot about farmers markets.
I joke that Sonny and I are housing refugees from the Bay Area. Back home in the OC, I had the privilege of caring for my dad (Amin David, founder of Los Amigos and twenty-something other organizations), until he crossed over in 2016.
Sonny and I shopped at Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market because it was the best market in Orange County. I ran into a gentleman removing the farmers market signs and I commented how the market was the highlight of my weekend. He told me they were looking for a market manager. It’s the perfect job for me because it combines my passions— honoring the Earth, building community, food justice and local economy.
I want to know more about Sonny.
Sonny is my fluffy, 11-year-old golden retriever that belonged to my angel son, Kenny. Sonny’s favorite place is the beach. He swims way out to where the surfers are, regardless of how big the waves are. He spreads love by letting people pet him.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I used to be an angry activist, but now I’m a peaceful warrior. I meditate to keep my vibration high and to deal with these “interesting” times. I also used to have a hemp store in the late 90’s with my business partner who is now a local judge. Good times!
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
If it’s for me, toast with Grampy Pat’s Almost Famous Sourdough (48-hour fermentation) smothered with Healthy Butter Crunchie Junkie nut butter. And an assortment of organic blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries from C&L farm, One Love Tea organic chocolate yerba mate tea, and fresh squeezed orange juice from Neff Ranch (and their papaya when it’s in season at the market).
What other profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
I would like to be a college professor teaching ecology and environmental studies.
Please reminder readers of the hours of the market.
Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans market is year-round, rain or shine, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..
Find the market at 303 W. Palm Avenue, in the parking lot of Chapman University’s Becket Building. Learn more at www.orangehomegrown.org.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.