Urban Planning Student Diana Ionescu Opens Farmers Market

Urban Planning Student Diana Ionescu Opens Farmers Market

Posted on

Thu, 10/11/2012 - 8:32pm
Diana Ionescu, left, is joined at the market's grand opening by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office supported the farmer's market through some funding, and on the right is Lee Wallach, who runs Faith2Green, one of the sponsoring organizations of the market.

There’s no book, no guide, no smart phone app.
Among the plethora of “For Dummies” books, and amid the
thousands of apps, including one that allows
you to grow a chia pet on your computer’s dashboard, there was still a
void.

And that left Diana Ionescu without a road map. Her only
option was the old-school standby: “trial and error.”

So a process two years in the making has finally come to life. All the
Urban and Regional Planning student had to do was learn by observing, ask all
the right – and sometimes wrong – questions and then deal with rigid
governmental red tape that made her wonder if it was all worth it.

And when the Motor Avenue Famers Market opened in September, Ionescu knew it had all been worth it. At just
25 years old and with two calendar years of trying to breathe life into this
project, she is now the Motor Avenue’s Farmer’s Market’s first Market Manager.

“You would think that because farmer’s markets are so popular and that
they’re a one-stop shop there would be a good guide to starting one,” said
Ionescu, who has lived in Palms since 2007. “It definitely taught me a lot
about city government and bureaucracy.”

Which was a blessing and a curse for the native of Romania who came to
UCLA as an undergrad via Houston.

Ionescu’s journey was one that helped her understand what lies ahead after she completes her graduate degree at
UCLA Luskin in 2013, while also taking some of the
things she’d learned in class and applied them outside the walls of the Public
Affairs building.

Active throughout her undergrad studies at UCLA in things like “Food
Not Bombs,” fair-trade coffee and sweatshop-free clothing, Ionescu didn’t stop
where others did. She shrugged her shoulders, thought “Why not?” and went to
work.

“The idea of a farmer’s market had been kicking around for several
years and there had never been someone there long enough,” she said. “I was
passionate about it and interested in those issues.”


The market, which runs on Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm and is located at the corner of National and Motor Avenues –
and stretched a block to Mentone Avenue – just south of the 10 freeway, has
been successful enough in its early-going that vendors travel from places like
Fresno, Oxnard and Riverside to set up shop.


Now as a civic leader, she has larger plans for the area. The market
has attracted a good amount of traffic despite its infancy
– “it’s been well received,” she says – and it has given the local businesses
along the street more customers. So it figures that an urban planning student
would focus on larger things despite having competition from nearby Mar Vista,
Culver City, Hollywood and, of course, Los Angeles.


“It’s a cute little stretch of National – fun shops, restaurants,” she
said.


It’s a process, no doubt, as Ionescu has learned through that old
standby of trial and error. At first they were shoehorned into a private
parking lot. Adding parking requirements forced her to move out of the comforts
of the lot. She’s had to organize with public transportation officials so that
the bus that runs can adjust its route slightly in dropping off and picking up passengers. Then, maneuvering between
what the city does – street closures – to what the county controls – health
permits – added to the simple task of just creating the market.


Oh, yes, and there’s the cost.


“Each week it costs over $1,000,” Ionescu said. “We’re in debt with
what we’ve spent. There are a lot of start-up costs. The idea is to make a
profit and put it back into the market or the Motor Avenue Improvement
Association. We’re looking at setting up sponsorships.” 

Knowing
what Ionescu has accomplished already, that shouldn’t be a problem.

For more information on the Motor Avenue Farmer's Market, please visit motoravenuemarket.com.

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There’s no book, no guide, no smart phone app.
Among the plethora of “For Dummies” books, and amid the
thousands of apps, including one that allows
you to grow a chia pet on your computer’s dashboard, there was still a
void.

And that left Diana Ionescu without a road map. Her only
option was the old-school standby: “trial and error.”

Image Caption Text: 
Diana Ionescu, left, is joined at the market's grand opening by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office supported the farmer's market through some funding, and on the right is Lee Wallach, who runs Faith2Green, one of the sponsoring organizations of the market.