Alemany Farmers’ Market: Farmers in the City, Take 1

3 08 2008

One of the great things about living in California, of course, is the abundant, fresh produce year-round. It’s also a great place to live if, like me, you care about eating healthy, local, organic food (in between the trips to the taqueria, of course!). There are several great farmers’ markets around town, where one or two days a week, local growers bring in whatever’s ripe and fresh.

My neighborhood market is the Alemany Farmers’ Market, a bustling slice of San Franciscania, with great deals on delicious goods to boot. Take a look at this… I bought all this goodness for $24 (all organic except the flowers and long beans). You can often find prices on organic produce at about a fourth of what you’d pay at Whole Foods or Rainbow!

The Alemany Farmers’ Market has a long and important history. According to an article on the City’s website, “The San Francisco Alemany Farmers’ Market has been the most successful operated market in the United States, and is a model for other markets nationwide.” Who knew?

The New York Times did an article about the City’s farmers’ markets in May. Here’s what they said about Alemany:

At 7:30 a.m. on a spring Saturday, clusters of Chinese shoppers were already jostling for the freshest bok choy and choy sum at the market on Alemany Boulevard. Others headed for Maria del Carmen Flores’s grilled pupusas, a tasty El Salvadoran corn cake filled with beans and cheese. Danny Grossman, a shopper, discussed his morning finds — a bouquet of rainbow-stemmed chard for $1, organic strawberries for $3 a pint.

If the Ferry Plaza is the prince of the city’s markets, displaying its produce like buffed jewels, Alemany is its down-home uncle — a place where a panoply of fresh food and flowers are sold in a bustling parking lot. “No porcini ravioli here,” Mr. Grossman said. “There’s still dirt on the leaves.”

The scene is San Francisco eclectic. As sweatpants-clad shoppers mingled, the Prairie Rose Band, its lead singer dressed in cow-pattered fake fur chaps, twanged bluegrass tunes on a banjo and fiddle. Patrons in knit caps joined impromptu drum circles. Asian grandmothers stared at a tattooed man with a giant iguana on his bicycle handlebars. Hand-painted murals of produce, flowers and the Buddha adorned the selling stalls.

Founded in 1947 and run by the city, the Alemany Market consists of two parallel rows of light blue truck stalls and a third row of vendors under white and green awnings. Sorting through the more than 100 stalls, you’ll find tangy October-pressed olive oil, honey so rich it won’t fit through the squeeze bottle, navel oranges with an unusually sophisticated flavor and fresh cheddar cheese infused with sage. Don’t miss Café GoLo’s flaky, sugar-encrusted pastries, or a loaf of its yeasty olive bread for a picnic, so weighty and warm it feels like just came off a kitchen windowsill.

Open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday, the market is south of the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, just off the junction of Highway 101 and Interstate 280. It is difficult to get to without a car, and parking can be tight. If you have any questions, “just ask the farmer,” said Carla Borelli, 43, another Alemany devotee. “It’s more like a community here.”

I have so many great photos for this post… please indulge me!