Saying they want to take the in a new direction, the market’s board of directors has fired the woman who managed the Sunday event on Ventura Place for seven years, bringing it recognition as one of the best of its kind in Los Angeles.
Carole Gallegos, hired as the farmers market’s manager in 2004, has been replaced by Melody Dosch, who opened nearby on Ventura Boulevard.
“We want a change in direction for the Studio City Farmers Market,” said Dosch, whose family has now taken charge of the Cheese Gallery. “We want to take a more hands-on management approach and get the community more involved with the farmers market.
“We have no concerns about what Carole did, and this has nothing to do with her personally," Dosch said. "We just wanted to have more control over who the vendors were.”
Before Dosch became the new manager, she was the Chamber of Commerce representative on the board of the nonprofit farmers market, which is owned and operated by the Chamber and the Studio City Residents Association.
“Melody’s background as a cheese producer and her involvement in how to run a restaurant is all something she brings to the job,” said Art Howard, who has represented the Residents Association on the board since the inception of the farmers market, and is still on the board. He said that several applicants were interviewed for the manager job. “We expect that she will make the farmers market even more successful.”
Gallegos said she worked 25 to 30 hours a week as the farmers market’s manager, brought in new vendors and tripled sales.
“I was always out there, rain or shine,” Gallegos said.
While she was manager, Los Angeles Magazine named the Studio City Farmers Market the “Most Kid-Friendly Market” in Los Angeles in 2008, and Nickelodeon’s Parents Connect website named it the “Parents Pick” winner in 2009 for favorite Los Angeles farmers market. In February, the Los Angeles Times called it “one of the two or three best farmers markets in the San Fernando Valley.”
“Everyone says I have done such a great job,” said Gallegos, who also manages the Sherman Oaks Community Farmers Market which will have its grand opening Saturday, April 2, and run every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sepulveda Boulevard and Camarillo by the Galleria. “Why then was I fired? What did I do wrong?”
Howard and Dosch said the market’s board wants to bring in vendors who will provide a greater variety of produce and products. Howard said he wanted local restaurants to buy from the market as well, and that they would do that if offered more organic choices.
"We can’t get a pumpkin radish,” Howard said. “We want more amounts of items.”
“We want it to be less pedestrian as far as what we have to offer,” Dosch said. “We want the produce to be more exotic. We want there to be more different colors.”
Howard also said the board wants to have maps handed out on each end of the 880-foot street to let people know where the vendors are and what they offer.
Dosch said she spoke to every vendor about the management change and also sent each a letter. “I tried to assuage the fears of a couple of vendors and to tell them that nothing is different,” she said. “We want them all to stay. . . . We have really conscientious farmers and we want to keep it that way.”
One thing that can’t be changed is the space devoted to the market. It was once proposed that the market would expand to include Radford Avenue from Ventura Boulevard to the entrance of the CBS Studio Center.
“Once it was single-family homes there; now it’s all apartment complexes, and we can’t make it any more difficult for the residents to get in and out of that area,” Howard said. “So, no, we won’t be expanding that way.”
Some former farmers market organizers said they were surprised by the firing of Gallegos, and they questioned the change in direction being sought by the board.
“I’m completely baffled by this,” said Bruce Neckels, who served on the Farmers Market Association Board for eight years and was part of the team that hired Gallegos. “The vendors always loved Carole, and she made sure everything was in compliance with the codes, and she made sure everything was done right.”
Neckels, who was also the Studio City Chamber of Commerce president for two years, added, “I think everything has been fine, I do not know what direction they want to go in, but this could be a big mistake.”
Allen Ravert, the businessman credited with bringing the farmers market idea to Studio City in 1998, said: “I think the vendors should be worried. I’m not sure the board of directors knows how to run a farmers market. I hope they don’t ruin it.”
Ravert runs the Studio City Shopping Center area across Laurel Canyon Boulevard from the farmers market, and co-owns and both on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.
“I hired Carole Gallegos as the manager of the market, and she knows how to run a business,” Ravert said.
The board is made up of the and the Foundation. Dosch was a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, and Howard was a representative of the Residents Association. When Dosch stepped down from the board to manage the farmers market, Carole Zide of took her position until a full-time replacement can be selected. Meanwhile, Resident Association president Alan Dymond and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Esther Walker were involved in the new changes.
Dymond was on his way out of town, and referred questions to Howard, who said he couldn’t discuss specifics about the private nonprofit group that shares money with the residents association and community groups.
Sources who have asked to remain anonymous said the Studio City Farmers Market now generates about $280,000 in revenue a year. That would seem to confirm Gallegos’ claim that she more than tripled the income during her term. The 2009 tax records show that the Studio City Farmers Market reported an income of $77,060. Two other sources said that Gallegos was earning about $26,000 a year for running the farmers market.
This year, the farmers market awarded its largest single grant of $15,000 to , started by students and teachers at, and it also has doled out money to the (a branch of the Residents Association) and other school and community projects, Howard and Dosch said.
"We're looking forward to being more open and involving the community more in the farmers market," Howard said.