ARIZONA AVE — Regina Agyare from Ghana was searching for ingredients for a native dish made of rice, sauce and vegetables at the Downtown Farmers’ Market Wednesday.
She ticked off what she still needed to find such as peppers and plantains. The dish reflects the melting pot that is her own community in Accra, Agyare said, and also serves as a metaphor for the experiment she and four other foreigners are currently engaged in.
The five are part of a week-long “pop-up” fellowship organized by Los Angeles-based GOOD Global Citizenship Project, an organization that tries to connect and empower the global community to effect positive change.
Not only were they at the market to search for ingredients for an upcoming dinner, but also to learn about the market’s 32-year history and experience a different side of the food industry where smaller farms can connect directly with consumers, who come from all walks of life.
The fellows were selected in a worldwide competition to work with organizations based in Los Angles County and brainstorm ideas and strategies that could be taken back to each person’s home country. They hail from New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Ghana and South Africa.
Some of the participating organizations include the market; Thank you for Coming, an experimental food and art space run by volunteers; Homeboy Industries, which helps former gang members become contributing members to society; and CicLAvia, which organizes citywide bike rides to encourage alternative forms of transit.
The GOOD Exchange, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, identifies those who are doing exciting, community-based work and who exemplify creative engagement, Casey Caplowe, co-founder and chief creative officer of GOOD, said.
“People often think of pioneering nonprofit efforts in faraway countries as charity work that, however laudable, has no application to their communities at home. One of the purposes of our fellowship is to upend that thinking and underscore just how universal many of our problems are, and how productive it can be to share ideas about solutions,” Caplowe said. “We want the best of what is going on in Los Angeles to inform projects half a world away, and vice versa. Our hope is that we can help entrepreneurial community leaders to take what they do and expand it on a global scale.”
The market experience was “eye opening,” Kate Montague, event manager for GOOD, said.
Laura Avery, Farmers’ Market supervisor for City Hall, said the market supports family farms and includes only farmers, with the exception of three bread vendors.
“We have about 15 California counties represented here, everything here from the Salton Sea and the desert where the dates come from to Sacramento, and they specialize in Asian pears and persimmons,” Avery said.
Bruce Good, a fellow from South Africa, said a farmers market like the one in Santa Monica goes “to the core of hyperlocal and community and you can see how everyone comes together.”
He said farmers’ markets celebrate what’s “good” about local neighborhoods.
Agyare said there aren’t any farmers’ markets similar in scale in Accra.
“Initially, the only thing I’d seen in Los Angeles, you see on TV; Malibu and the blonde girls on the beach,” Agyare, who had never been to California, said. “When I came, I saw such local diversity mixing and adding more color. I really like it.”
Agyare’s fellowship project introduces science, technology, engineering and math skills to children between the ages of 9 to 17 in Abetifi, a city in eastern Ghana.
“The whole idea is to equip them with the skills to fix the problems around them instead of just waiting for aid,” Agyare said. “As you know, Africa is natural resource rich, but [in] some places, just because we are consuming, we don’t create. We are teaching them to be innovators and problem solvers.”
The fellows will be in Los Angeles until Friday. Their next stop is in Malibu to learn about the Malibu Lagoon restoration project.