Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
When it comes to fruit and vegetables bursting with flavor, displaying pops of color and packed with nutrition, farmers know best. In fact, “ask a farmer” is one of the key suggestions made by farmers themselves for consumers to heed when shopping at the farmers’ market. In addition, go organic, select with care, try new items and be aware of the crop calendar as well as local weather conditions to know what to look for and when. Prices will be tweaked upward this summer, and you may not be looking at the most impressive arrays on the market stalls. Yet, supporting local farmers is a win-win for everyone. And by all means, do a rain dance if you think it might help.
Ferry Building, Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
The California-certified market’s big day is Saturday, but a smaller market is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s operated by the non-profit Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which has produced a useful seasonality chart for Northern California-grown vegetables, fruit and nuts. Among the standouts for late summer vegetables are corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, okra, summer squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips. Late summer fruit and nut harvests include apples, almonds, blackberries, blueberries, dates, figs, grapes, melons, nectarines, olives, pears, pecans, persimmons, pistachios, pomegranates, quince, raspberries, strawberries and walnuts. Weekly picks are highlighted online.
Clement Street Farmers Market
Clement St. (between 2nd and 4th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94118
San Francisco’s newest California-certified farmers market is run by the Agricultural Institute of Marin, which operates eight year-round markets in the Bay Area. Seasonal recipes are posted on the website for inspiration beyond conversation with growers and artisan makers at their stalls. Inner Richmond’s activity is on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes some food trucks and live music. In addition to fresh-cut bunches of flowers ($5) and changing seasonal produce, shoppers find an array of honey, chocolate, hummus, cheese, bakery goods and freshly pressed olive oil all year long. The vibe is relaxed, families and dogs join in, prices are reasonable and the locals are clearly happy they’re here.
Alemany Farmers’ Market
100 Alemany Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Welcome to San Francisco’s oldest — if not the most picturesque — market, in this location since 1947. Weekly regulars swear by it. Adjacent to the intersection of highways 280 and 101, a large open lot is the site for Saturday mornings, rain or shine. The first customers arrive as early as 6 a.m. Bring your own tote bags and cash for the many vendors that don’t accept plastic. In late summer, expect to find attractive prices on herbs, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, zucchini, carrots, beets, peaches, nectarines, watermelon and berries. A seasonal chart is found on the website for download. The bottom line here is that if it’s not in season, you won’t find it for sale.
Heart of the City Farmers’ Market
United Nations Plaza
1182 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Fondly known as “The People’s Market,” since 1981, this non-profit, farmer-run independent market has served customers all day on Wednesdays and Sundays year-round in the shadows of City Hall. A Friday market, popular with city workers and students, runs in season from May through November. What’s in season is what you’ll see. The mission statement includes a dual 30-year goal of supporting small local farmers and of bringing good prices on quality produce to an urban low-income community. The market strives to make healthy eating and nutrition integral for needy neighbors by accepting electronic food stamps and other vouchers. Over one thousand pounds of food is donated to Project Open Hand and to free food programs by participating farmers at the close of day.
1315 8th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122
For 26 years, the non-profit Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association has been involved in operating or promoting 70 different markets throughout the Bay Area. Since the grand opening in 2009, on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Inner Sunset location has 30-plus farmers traveling an average of 110 miles to bring fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to shoppers all year-round. Goodness know, they’re not making that kind of an effort to bring anything but the freshest, seasonal produce. Music and cooking demos round out the neighborhood atmosphere. Go to the website for a weather forecast and a “This Week’s Featured Product” window with growers, nutritional values and a handy link to the handy Produce Growers Calendar for Northern California.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.