California is home to more than 700 farmers’ markets, where locals shop for essential produce, and savvy tourists score locally made souvenirs such as honey; dried fruits and nuts; and jams and jellies. According to the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, which manages more than 60 markets in the Bay Area that source from over 300 farms statewide, it’s essential to support small, resource-conscious farms during California’s ongoing drought. With so many year-round markets in the city, there’s never been a better time to shop for locally grown delights.
Perhaps the most visible to Bay Area visitors, the farmers’ market surrounding the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero is open Saturdays 8 am-2 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 am-2 pm. Managed by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), there are cooking demonstrations and classes in addition to vendors specializing in everything you need to make a hearty, gourmet meal at home: olive oil, salad greens and herbs, mushrooms, squash, fresh pasta and an array of soft and hard cheeses. Be sure to grab a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers for your centerpiece.
The Alemany Farmers’ Market in Bernal Heights is a true San Francisco original—and the state’s first farmers’ market. Founded in 1943, it served as a model for farmers’ markets across California. Today, the dawn-to-dusk Saturday market tucked underneath two freeway overpasses is famous for its plentiful produce and fresh seafood, reasonable prices and unpretentious attitude.
Sunday is the day to visit historic Fort Mason on the city’s northern rim, home to more than 35 farm stands. Choose from carrots, cauliflower and seasonal favorites, including half a dozen varieties of apples for baking, making applesauce or ready to be enjoyed as an on-the-spot snack. Open Sundays from 9:30 am-1:30 pm, the Fort Mason market offers plenty of parking in addition to views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
Also open Sundays and Wednesdays, the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in the Civic Center has been serving hungry San Franciscans since 1981. Located at the United Nations Plaza, it offers an impressive array of essentials, including eggs and cows’ milk cheese. This is also the spot to stock up on small-batch jams, syrups and wine.
If you’re short on time, check out the small but plentiful market in the Crocker Galleria on Thursdays from 11 am- 3 pm. This small but sweet market is known for its selection of heirloom fruit varieties, including berries and figs.