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Meet Jodi Low of Santa Monica Farmers Markets

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jodi Low.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jodi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in a family who always shared dinner together and regularly included many friends and neighbors. Celebrations and family gatherings were always interwoven with great recipes, cooking as a family, and enjoying the fruits of bountiful home gardens. From ages 9 to 16, I spent my summers at Hidden Villa Camp, which is held on a small working farm in the San Francisco Bay Area. The counselors at Hidden Villa led with kindness, compassion, and fun, and demonstrated how to lead in our own lives. They also inspired passion for environmental stewardship, social justice, non-violence, communication, multicultural connections, and teamwork. These are values that I’ve taken with me into my career and all other areas of my life.

After initially considering becoming a chef, I decided to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies at Sonoma State University. The most impactful class I took there was Agroecology, which solidified my love for growing and having my hands in the soil. This led me to backyard gardening until I moved to LA, where I was connected through Santa Monica’s Sustainable Works with Ocean View Farms. There, I grew fruits and vegetables in two garden plots – the sheer abundance allowed me to donate to friends, family, local shelters, and rehab facilities. At the same time, I volunteered (and eventually became staff) at what was then known as the Ocean Discovery Center at the Santa Monica Pier. In my time there, I honed my program development, event management, and volunteer and staff supervisory skills.

One day in 2005, while tending the gardens at Ocean View, my friend asked me what my dream job would be. At the time, I was living in the Ocean Park neighborhood, and I thought about the Sunday Santa Monica Farmers Market on Main Street, which I attended every week. This market exemplified the family community values that I had grown up with. The social engagement and connection there motivated my response: “I want to manage that Sunday farmers market”.

Within that year, the market manager position opened, and it felt like fate. The position encompassed all of my interests: ecology, social justice, community development, food, farming, public service, and diplomacy. Beyond that, it was in my neighborhood and contained both outdoor and administrative elements. My vision for the market was to cultivate a rich weekly event that connected people. It has become so much more than that, and I’m so grateful to have had this experience.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Within the first few years of the job, there were two main challenges I faced. The first was, as a young woman, establishing my authority as the market manager when working with a very diverse group of people. Having to overcome a gender and age bias in a position of leadership required me to assert my authority in a way that I had not before.

The other obstacle was navigating the numerous regulatory compliances for vendors. There was a lack of structure which made it difficult to hold vendors accountable. This, in addition to the gender/age bias, compelled me to become more of a disciplinary, and to diverge away from my naturally easy-going disposition. I had to implement tactics to be acknowledged and respected as a supervisor, and received some pushback for it at the beginning. In the long run, these tactics paid off and became less necessary over time. Now, the challenge is to develop deeper relationships with these vendors, community partners, and the public.

Please tell us about Santa Monica Farmers Markets.
We run four farmers markets for the City of Santa Monica. Our mission is to create thriving, vibrant communities that are inclusive, connected and diverse by promoting the prosperity of CA farmers and small food businesses, preservation of the agricultural arts and sustainable food systems. What sets us apart is our integrity of the product and our dedication to put farmers’ success first. This makes us attractive to consumers and chefs alike. This also cultivates a rich social and collaborative environment between chef, farmer, and consumer, which influences the food culture in Los Angeles like nowhere else. Finally, working for the City, which is dedicated to innovation, sustainability, and wellbeing, is something that the Santa Monica Farmers Markets is proud to be a part of.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have tried to find a professional mentor early on, someone dedicated to helping me through the rough patches.

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