America's Top Farmer's Markets: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
San Francisco, CA
Architectural splendor fuses with modern varietals and sustainable farming in this relatively young market, which began in September 1992 as a chance for local farmers and chefs to strut their stuff. Within a few years, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market has become one of the Bay Area's biggest draws: the plenty of California, the sophistication of San Francisco, with the backdrop of a Gilded Age ferry terminal. Lined up outside the terminal's porticos are more than 68 growers, all certified by the agriculture commissioner of their specific counties. The Golden State tightly regulates farmers' markets, which ensures you'll buy directly from California producers. And there's plenty to choose from: blackberries from the Sierra slopes, table grapes from the flood zones around the Bay and oysters from windy, desolate Point Reyes, just over the Golden Gate Bridge but an eternity from the city's bustle.
The Embarcadero, that ribbon of roadway between the fault-lifted hills and the bay, has undergone a strangely conservative renaissance since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake: gone are the wastrels, replaced by young Republicans and urban professionals. Yet the Ferry Plaza market brings back San Francisco charm: that marked combination of whimsy and earnestness. Perhaps living on top of a quake threat minimizes the worries that dog other urbanites. It's not me, me, me-it's us, us, us, a great gathering of people laughing, talking and checking out whatever's in season. Tourists are everywhere, sneakers and sweatshirts; but there's a distinctly local feel, as if San Francisco were the small town it always thought it was.
Our Favorite Vendors
Breakfast wouldn't be the same without Marshall's Farm Natural Honey, run by the wiry, irrepressible Helene Marshall. Her husband drags their thousands of hives to 70 locations all over the state, awaiting the next flowering of star thistle or eucalyptus. For lunch on the go, stop by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, purveyors of the only classic-style blue made in the state: stinky, sweet and irresistible. Or shuck and suck at the Hog Island Oyster Company stand. Those fat bits of briny perfection from Tomales Bay near Point Reyes Station have been farmed cleanly. You'll get the perfect dessert at the Flying Disc Ranch: all the juicy dates its 11 acres can produce. Located over 520 miles away near Palm Springs, it's a long trip up north to sell some of California's best.
Most Saturdays in the north arcade, there's a meet-the-farmer talk at 10:30 a.m., followed by a seasonal cooking demonstration.
Tues., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Sat., 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., year-round at the Ferry Plaza | cuesa.org