Nestled in one of the USA’s most abundant agricultural areas, San Francisco is home to some of the nation’s first farmers’ markets. With more local markets across all of the city’s neighborhoods than one could ever hope to patronize, San Francisco’s markets also give back to the community, supporting civic education and local music. Likewise, the Bay Area is no stranger to food trucks, pop-up markets and gourmet food products. Here are 10 farmers’ markets well worth visiting if you’re in San Francisco.
Alemany Farmers’ Market
Known by San Franciscans as “the people’s market,” the Alemany Farmers’ Market has been thriving in the city since 1943, making it San Francisco’s oldest farmers’ market and, incidentally, the oldest in the state. Every Saturday, the Alemany Farmers’ Market occupies Alemany Boulevard whatever the weather may be, bridging a number of neighborhoods with its central location. Today’s mantra of eating fresh and buying local resounds with the market’s initial purpose, which was to bring together produce grown in “Victory Gardens” during World War II. Amazing vendors aside, the Alemany Farmers’ Market is undeniably a historical institution.
Held thrice weekly in front of San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is one of the city’s more scenic locations to stock up on produce from a wide swathe of organic farmers hailing from around the Bay Area. The market began as a one-off in 1992, but quickly became a regular installation on the waterfront thanks to its success. It also marks the beginning of a massive urban regeneration program, beginning with the collapse of a two-tier freeway that divided the waterfront from the city in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. Since then, San Francisco’s waterfront has evolved into one of the most lively pedestrian areas of the city, with the farmer’s market at its epicenter and exciting additions like the new location of the Exploratorium on nearby Pier 15. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is managed by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which provides information on seasonal produce to educate consumers.
Mission Community Market / Mercado Comunitario de la Mission
Located in the vibrant Mission neighborhood, the Mission Community Market serves both as a market and community hub, bringing together local food and community-based activism every Thursday. The market comprises more than 30 vendors selling produce as well as handmade food products, including homemade beef jerky, pasta, ravioli and cheeses. In the spirit of a local food community, profits are reinvested into educational programs published in English and Spanish, reflecting the largely Hispanic identity of the neighborhood. Weekly live music performances, featuring bluegrass, salsa and other eclectic acts, also add to the atmosphere of the market.
As the name suggests, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market takes place in a prime location on San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza, along the urban artery of Market Street. With 30 years of experience linking local farmers to the local community, the market is a neighborhood institution that has long focused on bringing fresh and affordable produce to the surrounding area that lacks a proper market. This populist spirit is reflected in the affordable prices that can be found across stalls and the market’s shoestring, non-profit budget. Heart of the City Farmers’ Market’s name gains another layer of nuance in light of their strong educational program committed to promoting health and demystifying veggies.
Located inside the Ferry Building across a number of handsomely furnished specialty food stalls and vendors is the Ferry Building Marketplace. With delicacies ranging from locally pressed olive oils (with exotic flavors like mandarin orange and chili pepper) to fresh juices and gluten-free baked goods, the Ferry Building Marketplace gives New York’s Chelsea Market a run for its money as one of the country’s premier urban delicacy markets. After shopping for gourmet cheeses and flowers, visitors can choose from a range of sit-down establishments, including cafés, restaurants, delis and coffee shops, to settle into and watch the passers-by boarding and disembarking the ferries. Located adjacent to the tri-weekly farmers’ market held in front of the Ferry Building, the marketplace is a go-to location for upscale foods and goods.
Located in San Francisco’s southern neighborhood of Noe Valley, the quarter’s eponymous farmers’ market emerged directly as a result of community organization and continues to nurture the same local ethos. The market was born out of a local crisis – the closure of the neighborhood’s primary health food store. Following the failure of the store, the neighborhood devised the farmers’ market to continue to sustain and support local farmers and producers, as well as consumers, marking another remarkable victory for food-based community activism in the city. Today, Noe Valley Farmers’ Market provides produce and prepared food, including juices, handmade enchiladas, homemade bread and even dessert.
Reflecting San Francisco’s burgeoning start-up identity, Off the Grid gathers a diverse range of food vendors numbering over 200 for San Francisco’s most vibrant weekly street food event. Taking place every Friday evening at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, Off the Grid has also expanded its roster of events to a weekly Sunday afternoon picnic in the Presidio, and a late-summer Thursday night market in the same location. With the number of vendors, the choice will not be between what kinds of food you can consume but how many different dishes, with a cart dedicated to crème brulée, another dedicated to lobster, numerous vegan options and an endless scope of cuisines, including Asian fusion, burgers and Mexican specialties. There is also an impressive array of beverage vendors, such as Rye On The Road cocktail specialists, craft beers and wine.
Transforming the post-industrial space of San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood is the Soma StrEatfood Park, offering a permanent venue for the city’s premier food truck vendors. The StrEat food Park, which is open every day, provides a continuously changing roster of vendors and an exciting schedule of events, such as night bazaars and sports-viewing parties. Weekly events also ensure a regular source of entertainment with delicious food and specials, including bottomless Mimosa Sundays, Friday night comedy shows and karaoke Saturdays. The StrEat food Park’s Streat Brew truck is one of the first of its kind to serve tap beers, wines and even sangria with an unmissable weekday happy hour.
Located at the Fillmore Center Plaza, the Fillmore Farmers’ Market concentrates on bringing fresh produce to the neighborhood while supporting local jazz musicians. Weekly performances during the market’s Saturday hours from 9am to 1pm stem from a collaboration with the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District Merchants Association, working to encourage and help local jazz artists.
One of San Francisco’s most colorful neighborhoods also sports one of the city’s more energetic and eclectic markets. Alongside the standard set of fruits and vegetables, the Castro Farmers’ Market also stocks local honey, meats, seafood and local soaps.