The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market Turns 20; Patty U. Recalls Its Early Days

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An average Saturday. Photo: CUESA/Flickr

Well connected local foodinista Patricia Unterman (former Examiner and Chronicle critic, local guidebook author, and owner of Hayes Street Grill) was one of the forces behind the original Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, which debuted 20 years ago next month. Today she reminisces about those early days in 1993, two years after the last Embarcadero Freeway remnants were finally hauled away, when there were only three farmers' markets in the city there are now 25 operating at the height of the season. "Taste made the difference," she writes. "The moment of belief still happens the same way, when someone experiences a dry farmed tomato, a fragrant strawberry, or tender sweet peas, and begins to wonder why all produce doesn't taste like that."

The market, of course, predated the major Ferry Building renovation, which was completed in 2003. Patty was asked to help organize the first farmers' markets by her friend Sibella Kraus, a.k.a. Chez Panisse's first forager, who went on to be a driving force behind connecting more chefs with farmers in the Bay Area. As Patty recalls:

When the post-earthquake reconstruction of the Embarcadero got underway, the market moved to a parking lot just north at Green Street, and when the Ferry Building was renovated, the developers begged us to move our market there. We did and our farmers market put that building on the map. In turn, the iconic location gave our farmers a wider audience.

You can join in the 20th anniversary celebrations of CUESA and the farmers' market at a cocktail event on May 15, featuring farmers' market cocktails from Bay Area bartenders, and at the big public birthday bash on the morning of Saturday, May 18, which will feature party favors, coffee and tea, and four shortcake stations curated by local pastry chefs William Werner of Craftsman & Wolves, Francis Ang of Fifth Floor, Jen Musty of Batter Bakery, and Luis Villavelazquez of Les Elements Patisserie. That event is $20 for adults, and $10 for kids. (For the kids there will also be a farmers'-market-wide treasure hunt, open to everyone without tickets.)

Starting a Farmers' Market [Unterman on Food]
Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market 20th Birthday Bash [CUESA]