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San Francisco Civic Center Farmers' Market Serves Tenderloin Three Days a Week

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San Francisco Civic Center Farmers' Market Serves Tenderloin Three Days a Week

The farmers' market at Civic Center supplies an array of fresh produce and lunch options to the neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of HOCFM.

SF Civic Center Farmers' Market Opens Three Days a Week:

The ever-bountiful and lively farmers' market at San Francisco's Civic Center has added a third day, Fridays, to its weekly schedule and is now open on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays all year round, rain or shine.

Independent, nonprofit and run by farmers, the market is officially and appropriately named the Heart of the City Farmers' Market. In its offerings of edibles, its farmer-vendors, customers and ambiance, it has a variety and earthiness that you won't find at other farmers' markets in the Bay Area.

Farmers & Their Produce:

On any given market day, you might find yard-long beans, blood oranges, bundles of beets with dirt still clinging to them, fresh dill, fuschia-colored orchids, pomelos, bizarre-looking Buddha's hand (a citrus fruit), and probably something natural and organic that you can’t identify (just ask--the vendors will tell you and suggest how to prepare, cook and/or eat it). That’s along with the staples like gourmet mushrooms, olive oil, cacti, fresh fish, dates, baby vegetables, honey, just-hatched eggs, peppers and potatoes.

Pomegranates, persimmons and six varieties of Asian pears are supplied by Mohammed Afzal, a Pakistan native who majored in pomology (the study and cultivation of fruit) at University of California-Davis before starting his farm 30 years ago. The Medrano family trucks in its fresh flowers all the way from Royal Oaks, near Watsonville. Glenn Tanimoto’s kiwi invariably sells out early. Third-generation farmer Tony Mellow, who has peddled his produce at the Civic Center farmers' market since day one in 1981, grows apricots, pears, pumpkins and vegetables in the South Bay.

The Neighborhood Market:

In addition to the variety, one of the best features of the Heart of the City--and an open secret--is its low prices relative to farmers' markets elsewhere. The nonprofit organization subsidizes the stall fees so that the farmers can in turn keep the prices down. That’s because of the market’s core mission: To provide fresh and affordable food to the low-income neighborhood that it’s in and to support small, local growers.

When the market was set up in 1981, there was no reasonably priced supermarket in the Tenderloin. Today, unfortunately, there is still none. Dotted with liquor stores and corner groceries of packaged food, the Tenderloin is the only neighborhood in San Francisco that lacks a full-service grocery store. (The Bayview district got its first in two decades, a Fresh & Easy store, in the fall of 2011). According to Heart of the City’s management, 80% of all of the food stamps that are used to shop at farmers' markets in the city end up at its market. And the Heart farmers give 1,000 pounds of produce each week to neighborhood residents for free, which is distributed by the nonprofit Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

Hot Lunches:

Heart of the City also has hot-food peddlers hawking roast chicken, tamales, Belgian waffles and other treats on Wednesdays, who draw lunch-time workers from City Hall, the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Public Library and other offices, law students from Hastings and design and fashion students from the Art Institute of California, and curious tourists. Be prepared to wait for the crepes, pupusas and the wood-fired pizza.

Heart of the City Farmers' Market
Fridays at 7am–2pm; and Sundays & Wednesdays at 7am–5pm. Note: Vendors often sell out earlier.
At United Nations Plaza, Civic Center (along Market Street between 7th and 8th streets), San Francisco

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