First farmer's market on Friday opens in SF


To community leaders like Steve Woo with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development, this is more than just a bargain on berries. He says it's a step toward revitalizing a neighborhood in transition, "The Tenderloin is one of the only neighborhoods in San Francisco without a full service grocery store dedicated to serving the community."

That was also the case 31 years ago when John Garrone and a handful of other farmers started selling their produce in UN Plaza, "We are still here at the farmer's market," said Garrone, "an oasis of fresh food in a food desert."

It's such a popular oasis, in fact, that after years of selling on Wednesdays and Sundays, the farmers will become the city's only market to be open on Fridays.

"Obviously the crowd that's here shows they need another day," said farmer's market shopper Dino Di Donato. "It's great, it's a great location for it."

The new Friday market may be big news in the neighborhood, but it also reflects a trend that's sweeping the nation. New numbers from the US Department of Agriculture show that farmer's markets are really catching on. Across the nation they've recorded a 10 percent rise in the number of farmer's markets in just the last year. But what's really staggering is the steady rise from about 1,700 markets in 1994 to nearly 8,000 this year.

"I think it's driven partly by the increase in the number of food shows where people see these products and want to use them," said Ferry Plaza market organizer Dave Stockdale.

Stockdale is the director of CUESA, which puts on the Ferry Plaza farmer's market. He says we get healthier neighborhoods from fresher producer, "Research shows that that simply has higher nutritional value. It also tastes better, so you're apt to eat more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables."

Especially, says Supervisor Jane Kim, if it's affordable, "Of all the food stamps used at the farmer's markets in the city, 75 percent of those food stamps are actually exchanged here on this site."

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