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Olympian among market’s treasures

Alfred Czerner is a former Olympian who now brings his master woodworking creations to the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market. (photo by Jacqueline Gregory)

Olympian among market’s treasures

Customers discover many hidden and surprising treasures while walking among the booths at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market each Saturday. Those taking time to read the newspaper clipping hanging in front of one particular wood craftsman’s booth will find they are a few feet away from a competitor in the 1952 Summer Olympic Games held in Helsinki, Finland. 

Alfred Czerner competed in four-man crew for Argentina in the Games of the XV Olympiad.

“I rowed for Argentina in 1952,” he explained in a delightful accent. “I was a young pup. I was 17-years old at the time. In 1952 they didn’t have lightweights or juniors.”

Czerner fondly remembers his Olympic experience.

“It was like walking in a cloud all the time, you know. Fantastic,” he said. “I loved the way the Finnish people were so trusting. They would leave a bicycle outside on the sidewalk; nobody would touch it. Leave toys from the kids; nobody would touch it. Very clean place.”

Czerner recalled that he and his teammates made their way out of the trials to the semifinals, but didn’t make the finals by less than a second. 

He came to the United States in 1963 when he moved to Los Angeles. This is where he perfected his woodworking mastery by making harpsichords by hand. 

He moved back to Argentina in 1968, but returned to the United States in 1972, choosing to relocate to San Diego this time.

“Los Angeles was crazy. Traffic and smog; I didn’t like it anymore,” he said. 

Now, Czerner does his woodworking in his backyard, creating high quality planters for homes, and selling them each Saturday at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market. 

“I’m a carpenter,” he said. “Nobody give me work anymore. I’m an old man, you know. But I got some wisdom.”

Planters for herbs, small trees and plants might not seem like anything big, but planters made by this man are of the highest quality, each shining and finished to perfection. His master skills and knowledge are very evident in his finished products. Examine them closely and one gets the impression that his planters will outlast the person who buys them.  

“It’s not for everybody. I’m not interested to have high production,” Czerner explained. “The bigger the size, the more material it needs, the more work. So, the prices go up.”

Czerner started building the planters using pine and cedar, but found these woods would not last long. Now he uses redwood because it lasts much longer and termites don’t like redwood, he said. 

“I get the lumber and use my creativity to do different ways to work the wood,” he said.

Czerner finishes his creations by putting them through his sanding and staining process four times each.

Among his products are unique octagon-shaped planters starting at 8-inches by 8-inches and going up to 20-inches by 20-inches for small trees 

He has larger raised planters, mostly for vegetables, so that people don’t have to work on their knees. Sizes start at 2-feet by 4-feet up to 3-feet by 8-feet. Customers may add on one of his cages for the raised planters so animals won’t munch on the plants. He said customers from Rancho Santa Fe and Scripps Ranch found the deer to be a problem, and his cages are a good solution. 

In addition, Czerner also builds herb planters that can fit into kitchen windows. These are usually 22-inches long, 8-inches wide and 5-inches deep. 

Czerner and his creations can normally be found at the Scripps Ranch Farmers Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 10380 Spring Canyon Road, in the Innovations Academy parking lot. 

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