Farmers Market Resource Kit: A Step Toward Making San Francisco a Market City (2005)

Farmers Market Resource Kit: A Step Toward Making San Francisco a Market City

Publication Date: June 2005

Funder: The San Francisco Foundation

Located in town centers and neighborhoods throughout the world, farmers’ markets serve multiple needs and provide multiple benefits. They bring fresh food into urban areas, connect city residents with local farmers, and catalyze community-gathering places. They are also a front-line response to the epidemic of diet-related health problems, to the challenges of community economic development, and to financial pressures on small farmers.

San Francisco has three well-established certified farmers’ markets, including one of the oldest in California (Alemany), one nationally acclaimed for its high quality, organic products (Ferry Plaza), and one renowned for serving diverse inner city customers (Heart of the City). Both Ferry Plaza and Heart of the City operate on multiple days. In the past year, six new neighborhood markets have sprung up (Kaiser, Fillmore, Bayview Hunter’s Point, Noe Valley, Cannery, and Marina). Three additional markets are in various planning stages (in the Presidio, the Panhandle, and on Ocean Avenue). This rapid growth in farmers’ markets reflects the desire on the part of community groups to capture farmers’ market benefits and the desire of farmers to access receptive markets. The surge of interest in farmers’ markets also underscores the need for San Francisco to better coordinate market regulations, more proactively assess strategies (and alternative options) for new market development, and improve basic understanding about farmers’ market operations among City officials and community groups. Above all, the boom in markets presents an opportunity to create city-wide policies and a unifying vision for farmers’ markets in San Francisco.

Imagine San Francisco as a Market City, in a Regional Garden. Farmers’ markets in neighborhoods of all income levels would provide places for the community to socialize and buy fresh, local food. Individually, the markets would reinforce distinctive neighborhood character and serve specific community needs such as revitalization of streets, re-use of historic buildings, incubation of food businesses, or increasing fresh food access. Collectively, the markets would reinforce the City’s sustainability goals and develop collaborations such as streamlining market regulations, combining marketing and promotions efforts, and strategic development of new markets. A major focus would be on fostering urban-rural linkages through education, public policy, and marketing initiatives. As a Market City, San Francisco would be known for its leadership in holistically connecting public health, community economic development, sustainable regional agriculture, and celebration of culinary and cultural traditions.

This vision – Making San Francisco a Market City, in a Regional Garden – helped to bring together key stakeholders for the first time. The Market City project provided the opportunity for long- established market operators, aspiring market operators, and lead City and state agencies to discuss their common interests and equally important, to discuss differences in goals and strategies. A main question that emerged was – Is there a single vision and set of policies for farmers’ markets that can simultaneously best serve the interests of diverse communities and best support regional farmers?

Answers to this question are still being discussed. However, as a first step, Market City stakeholders agreed on the need for a Market Resource Kit and enthusiastically collaborated on its production.

The original proposal for Steps Toward Making San Francisco a Market City included two phases. The first was the production of a Resource Kit as a primer for market stakeholders. The second phase was the convening of market stakeholders to assess current issues for farmers’ markets in San Francisco and to develop policy recommendations to address these issues. As the project progressed, it was decided to undertake both phases together and to combine them into one overall product. Therefore, this Resource Kit includes extensive farmers’ market information as well as a synopsis of current market issues and stakeholders’ recommendations for policies that address issues specifically concerning San Francisco farmers’ markets.

The Resource Kit was produced for several reasons. Its main purpose was to compile in one document, an overview of farmers’ market history, regulations, management, operations, current issues, and key resources. In general, consumers and policy makers have little understanding of the complex issues that underlie farmers’ markets’ seemingly simple and down-to-earth operations. However, given farmers’ markets’ increasing importance for farmers, consumers, and communities; rapid development of new markets; and a change of market jurisdiction in the City1, a deeper understanding of farmers’ markets is imperative. Such an understanding, which we hope is fostered by this Kit, can help City officials, community groups, farmers, and current and pending market operators, address common market challenges and optimize emerging market opportunities.

There are more specific purposes of the Resource Kit for specific San Francisco audiences. In particular, we hope the Resource Kit will:

· Educate community groups interested in starting markets about a wide range of market issues, management and operations options, and alternative strategies for meeting community needs.

· Help policy makers better understand farmers’ market operations, the contributions farmers’ markets make to civic life, and their potential to realize significant sustainability goals for the City.

· Inform agencies responsible for market oversight and regulations about what is working well and what could be improved from the point of view of market operators; and help make the regulatory process more standardized, streamlined, and transparent.

· Provide useful background information for the staff and boards of existing markets that will help them place their markets in a broader context.

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