The Green Scene At The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

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The Living Local series is an insider’s look at local environmental efforts and accessibility. Take a trip around the U.S. without leaving your computer!

For California Bay Area residents, it’s the perfect time of year to eat avocados, rutabaga, asparagus, grapefruit and guavas. They are at the height of their natural harvest time and hit the spot for ripeness. At the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, consumers can purchase these and other fresh fruits and veggies with the confidence that the local farmers who grow them practice sustainable agriculture.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a California Certified Farmers Market operated by the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). This means the producers of the agricultural products sell directly to consumers and are certified by the Agricultural Commissioner in their county. CUESA encourages market participants to follow its principles of sustainable agricultural production, which are:

  • Environmentally Sound (producers work to conserve and restore landscapes and other resources used)
  • Humane Animal Management
  • Economically Viable
  • Socially Just (reasonable compensation for producers and employees)

CUESA itself has evolved to be an even greener organization in recent years. In the past, about one million plastic bags and 4,800 plastic water bottles were distributed annually at the Ferry Plaza Market, and nearly all materials discarded were wasted. But in April of 2008, CUESA launched the Waste Wise Farmers’ Initiative, changing the way things were done around the market.

One of the most well-known farmers markets in the country, Ferry Plaza attracts millions each year. What could you find at your local market? Photo: Seasonalchef.com

One of the most well-known farmers markets in the country, Ferry Plaza attracts millions each year. What could you find at your local market? Photo: Seasonalchef.com

Waste Less

The initiative was launched with a reusable bag give away. Ten thousand reusable bags were given to Ferry Market customers to encourage less use of plastic bags. Bottled water was ditched for water straight from the tap, which is free for those who bring their own bottle or cup, and compostable cups are also offered. Waste Wise stations have three bins: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for garbage. CUESA is also working with producers to reduce product packaging waste.

The market hosts various events throughout the year, including the Citrus Celebration earlier this month, and the “Hoof-a-Palooza” coming up March 28. Every Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m., a top Bay Area chef does a cooking demonstration using seasonal and sustainable ingredients purchased from the market that morning.

Eating Seasonal: Reduce Your Impact

Eating seasonal doesn’t just mean the produce tastes better because it is ripe, it is also about supporting local farmers who can transport their goods the shortest distance to your plate. And it gives you the opportunity to experiment with items you might not otherwise consider adding to a meal.

For example, the following are currently in season, but perhaps not listed on the typical shopping list:

  • Cardoons
  • Endive
  • Fennel
  • Leeks
  • Rapini
  • Cherimoyas

The CUESA site offers a guide to seasonal eating which has calendars showing the ideal time to purchase various fruits, veggies and nuts. It also gives preparation ideas for both well-known and lesser known products.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market runs twice a week in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.  It is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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