The Valley’s newest hub for locally farmed produce, handmade accessories and fresh baked bread is, of all places, Encino Hospital Medical Center. The hospital stood up its own farmers market last month, offering staff, patients and their families something fun and healthy to do on Thursday mornings.
“We have patients who are here for a long time, and their loved ones are stuck here. Why not bring something for them to do?” said Hilda Avanessian, director of business development and marketing at the hospital, which is owned by Prime Healthcare Services. “The community loves it and the staff look forward to it.”
On Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the hospital’s healing garden plays host to more than a dozen vendor booths. Attendees can find ginger-turmeric honey and whipped honey butter from Burbank’s Agate Smart Honey; asada tacos from Diego’s, based in North Hills; croissants and sourdough loaves from Boule de Pain in Canoga Park; and sustainably farmed eggs from Eggs & Love in Los Angeles. Fruit and vegetable farmers come from as far as Riverside and Oxnard. Underwood Farms in Moorpark — whose chili peppers formerly powered cult-favorite hot sauce Sriracha — is not a permanent mainstay at the market but has set up booths there in the past few weeks.
Avanessian said the hospital doesn’t choose the vendors. Instead, it partnered with Raw Inspiration, a foundation that organizes and manages around 25 farmers markets in L.A. and Ventura County, including those in Westlake Village, Calabasas, CSUN Northridge and Lancaster, to coordinate vendors and their contracts.
“Weekdays are a little tricky trying to get everybody here,” said Avanessian, citing slower foot traffic and therefore lower sales numbers than on weekends. “But lunchtime gets bombarded.”
Contractually, the hospital earns a cut of the market’s earnings each Thursday. But to give back to the community, it donates that cut to the Encino public schools.
“Encino Hospital makes no money from this, we’re just providing a space for (local vendors),” Avanessian said.
The same farmers market pops up at the Sherman Oaks Hospital on Tuesdays, also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both hospitals are owned by Prime Healthcare. Proceeds from the Sherman Oaks market are donated to the Sherman Oaks public schools.
Though the markets primarily serve each hospital’s population, they are open to the public. The hospitals advertise it in Valley News Group papers, as well as with flyers and signage along Ventura Boulevard and Van Nuys Boulevard and posts on social networking app Nextdoor.