The San Francisco Bay Area, a leader in greening of America, has an abundance of farmer’s markets. There are too many to list each one here, so I will summarize the markets that I think are the best of the bunch. Some of these markets are in unusual places, and they all emphasize different things and types of products. Most offer organic produce, but this is not the only type of produce these markets have. Expect to pay more for organic produce. Most also have an assortment of food stands, bakery goods and other gifts to choose from. One problem can be parking; much of it is street parking and involves some walking. There is also something to be said for arriving as early as possible. Most of the vendors bring their supplies with them when they set up, once they sell out, that is all there is. Remember also produce has a short shelf life, even if kept in the refrigerator. You need to buy what you will eat in a short time. Most farmer’s markets do not accept anything else but cash; this makes sense since many vendors are not here every week. So, you will need to bring some cash with you to shop. It is fun to visit different markets; this shows the true variety of what is available at this type of setting. So, let us begin to see what is out here for us:
Kaiser Permanente: Many Kaiser facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area have a farmer’s market once a week featuring all kind of produce, flowers and other types of plants. These are open to anyone, no one checks your Kaiser membership. They usually run from 10 am to 3 pm. You can check their website at kp.org to find out locations for these markets. These markets have a good selection and short lines. Ample parking is also available. Sometimes you run into cranky patients who are detoured by these markets, but this is about the only bad experience you will have. These markets bring their own shades and covers, so they operate even in moderately bad weather. Some examples are Hayward, Union City, Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco sites. Some of the vendors will accept credit and ATM cards which is convenient.
My hometown of Hayward has the Hayward Farmer’s Market at 777 B Street by City Hall. This market is good sized and features produce, tacos, baked goods, pasta, ethnic foods and offers to help you with tips on preparing the items you buy. Parking is across the street in the city parking garage, a short walk from the market site. The market is open on Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm.
San Leandro boasts two farmer’s markets. One, that is open on Wednesdays 4 to 8 pm at East 14th and Parrott Streets, has a different theme every week. It also features live entertainment, places to sit and enjoy the music and lots of dinner items. The other farmer’s market is at the Bay Fair Shopping Center on the East 14th Street side of the mall. This market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and features a unique selection of bakery goods as well as produce. It also sells a variety of plants and other keepsakes. Parking is on the street mostly; sometimes you can find parking in the mall parking lot. This market tends to be crowded, especially early in the day.
Further south, another location that has a great farmer’s market is Produce Spot in San Jose at 2505 Berryessa Road. This farmer’s market is open seven days a week from 8 to 8 and is indoors. Since they are open all the time, you don’t need to plan your trip in the early AM. There is a parking lot near the store. This site features items from local farmers, including juices, dairy and baked goods. If you like to eat fresh, this is the store for you. This site is also one of the farmer’s markets that does accept credit and ATM cards.
If you like your farmer’s markets on an actual farm, Smith Family Farms is for you. Located at 4430 Sellers Avenue, Brentwood, this farm has a farmer’s market along with a country store and farm animals. They have a section that you have to pay to enter, but this doesn’t have anything to do with the farmer’s market itself. The prices are reasonable, and they offer pick your own in season at even more reduced prices. The staff is helpful and friendly. There is a enough to do here to make for a good family outing on a Sunday. They have a web site at smithfamilyfarm.com so you can check their hours and what is available. They are open most weekends during the spring and fall.
Another farmer’s market is the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market at Grand Avenue and Lake Park Avenue in Oakland. This market has a parking lot that is located under the 580 freeway overpass near Grand Avenue. It is best to arrive here early in the day for easiest parking. This market features a broad and changing selection of produce, food and bakery goods. It has a children’s play area and live entertainment. It is known for the free samplesz it provides. You may not need to eat lunch after you are through visiting the various stalls. This market is near the various shops on Lakeshore Avenue, so you can visit this area also during your time here. It is open on Saturdays between 9 and 2 pm. This market also sells meats and fish.
Concord has a farmer’s market that many people rave about. Year round, it is open on Tuesday mornings between 10 am and 2 pm at the Todos Santos Plaza at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street. During the spring and summer, it is also open on Thursdays between 4 and 8 pm. This market has live entertainment and a children’s play area. It features produce, baked goods and prepared foods. There is street and garage parking, and an area to sit, eat and enjoy the music. This market features a top selection of products for your enjoyment.
As you can see, you can spend many weeks visiting the different markets in the Bay Area. Remember, there are more than the ones I listed here. Most city or county web sites have an area that will tell you more about the local farmer’s markets. Now, you have no excuse for not getting fresh produce locally. Get out there and shop!