Each Week Farmers Donate Over 1,500 Pounds of Produce

Heart of the City farmers have teamed up with Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation to donate produce for free distribution to those in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods who cannot afford to incorporate fresh produce into their diets even with the aid of Heart of the City Farmers Market's EBT program, which enables residents to purchase food from farmers with food stamps.

Volunteers from TNDC collect produce donated by farmers at the end of each Wednesday market day and distribute it free to residents at a Free Produce Store in the heart of the Tenderloin. Over 1,300 pounds of produce is donated each day by farmers. On Sundays, Project Open Hand collects produce that they use to deliver healthy meals to residents with mobility challenges. To listen to KGO Radio's spotlight on this effort, click here.

Heart of the City Farmers Market is a non-profit with a mission not only to support small-scale farming, but also make fresh produce accessible to everyone and help to create a Healthy Heart of the City.

Other  “Healthy Heart of the City” Efforts by Farmers

Our farmers market is dedicated to nutrition education  outreach.  Last fall we did 5 workshops  in after-school programs and affordable supportive housing buildings  (partnering with TNDC, Glide, and the Boys and Girls Club) to teach about produce,  farms, and healthy choices, then took participants on tours of the market to  meet the farmers in person. We call these our "Healthy Heart of the City  Workshops" and have plans for six more this fall. We partner closely with  Department of Public Health’s Feeling Good Project to offer nutrition education  activities for the community and the Office of Women's Health and Chinatown  Public Health Center to offer free health resources during market days. Our  farmer-run Board has donated over $50,000 to local non-profit organizations  since the market was founded. 

$94k USDA Grant Awarded to Heart of the City Farmers

A Farmers Market Promotion Program grant awarded for 2012-2013 will enable Heart of the City Farmers Market to bridge the gap between local, healthy food and San Francisco’s Mid-Market and Tenderloin neighborhood “food desert.”

For 31 years Heart of the City Farmers Market has operated in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza as an independent, farmer-operated non-profit market with a mission to bring a much-needed source of affordable fresh food to the  Mid-Market and Tenderloin "food desert" that for more than three decades has been without an affordable supermarket within walking distance.  Heart of the City’s mission is to keep costs low for small family farmers through subsidized stall fees, which helps keep  produce prices lower for the low-income residents of the Mid-Market and Tenderloin neighborhood.

Due to the high rate of poverty in this community, 60% of CalFresh/SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) used at San Francisco farmers markets to buy fresh produce are used here at Heart of the City. 

“The total amount of purchases made here with an EBT card has grown by 30% each year for the past three years,” said Kate Creps, the market's Executive Director. “For many in this neighborhood, using their food stamp benefits is the only way they can afford  to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet.  We know there are many who don’t know they can use their EBT card to shop here but with our limited resources, but our ability to promote and staff this program has not been able to meet the rising need.”

The Department of Agriculture has pledged its support to help change that. $93,778 in federal funding for Heart of the City Farmers  Market was announced on September 21, 2012, by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan as part of the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, which will provide over $9 million in grants in 2012 to organizations across 39  states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for initiatives that bolster the connection between agricultural producers and their consumers while improving access to healthy food and strengthening local economies. 

“This funding is so exciting for us because to date this market has been 100% stall fee supported and each project we undertake must be paid for by our farmers, who are struggling to survive in this economy,” said Kate Creps.  “Consequently our efforts  have been limited to what we can do inexpensively with our tiny staff team.  These funds will enable us to go above and beyond our current ability to outreach to and support this community.”  Funds will be used to launch an awareness campaign to promote the use of CalFresh/SNAP benefits (food stamps) to purchase healthy foods at the farmers market and to offset start-up costs of a new year-round farmers market on Fridays to increase access to fresh food for local residents.

On August 3, 2012, Heart of the City Farmers Market launched a new Friday farmers market from 7am to 2:30pm at the United Nations Plaza to give residents easier access to fresh food and to lend a hand in Mid-Market revitalization efforts.  “New farmers markets always have a difficult start-up period as customers get accustomed to the new market day.  During this period it costs more for farmers to travel to and staff the market than they profit from sales,” said Kate Creps.  “Because our mission is to support our small family farms and help them survive through this recession economy, we have not been charging our farmers stall fees and have been absorbing the start-up costs. This grant is a welcome reprieve.”

Farmers Market Promotion Program funds will enable Heart of the City Farmers Market:

  1. To provide free stall fees for our farmers on Fridays for six months to encourage them to continue participating on Fridays until the number of customers rises and the market becomes profitable.

  2. To ensure that the new Friday market day will be a year-round market. Heart of the City Farmers Market’s Wednesday and Sunday markets are year-round rain or shine, but the winter brings slower months with a smaller produce selection and fewer customers on rainy days. Concerns that the new Friday market day would not survive through the slower winter are overcome by this welcome source of financial support.

  3. To hire one additional staff person to help us staff the market’s EBT machine and do outreach to neighborhood community organizations, supportive housing buildings, schools and after-school programs to teach residents how to use their food stamps to purchase affordable, fresh-picked produce.

  4. To facilitate free nutrition education workshops and farmers market tours to connect local residents to our farmers and encourage healthy, sustainable food choices.

A Farmers’ Market in the Heart of the City

by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager

For more than three decades, San Francisco's Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been operating at UN Plaza, along Market Street and within sight of City Hall. The market is unique not only for its central location but also for its dedication to offering fresh produce to low-income customers living in the nearby Tenderloin neighborhood while also supporting the livelihood of California farmers. 

Since its start in 1981 as a joint project of the American Friends Service Committee and Market Street Association, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been governed by its farmer-vendors. As a result, the farmers have worked to keep stall fees – what they pay for space at the market – low. Currently the fees are $30 per day, per 10 foot by 10 foot stall, which may be the lowest rate in the city. The low stall fees are a prime reason this farmers' market is known not only for its variety but also for its affordability.

The market is also known for its size. With more than 50 farm stands and nearly 20 prepared-food vendors selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, eggs, bread, tamales, rotisserie chicken and more, the market is bigger than most other markets in the city except the Ferry Building and Alemany Markets. According to Kate Creps, Heart of the City market manager, most of the farmers travel 1.5 to 3 hours to reach the market, though some travel further, including Dates by Davall, who drives more than 8 hours one way to bring his produce from the Coachella Valley, east of Los Angeles.

The market also distinguishes itself by its commitment to support the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets. More than 75 percent of all CalFresh electronic benefits used at farmers’ markets in San Francisco are redeemed at Heart of the City.

The organization just reached a new milestone this month with the addition of a Friday market, complementing its existing Wednesday and Sunday gatherings.  While it’s still to be seen whether demand is sufficient to sustain the Friday market, it's an exciting development in a neighborhood with no full-service grocery store. Starting a new farmers’ market is difficult in general, but that’s especially true in low-income areas, with the close of the Bayview farmers’ market providing an example.

Describing the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, though, doesn’t do it justice. So stop reading and mark your calendar for a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday starting as early as 7 a.m.  Bring a shopping bag, appetite or both, and enjoy this special market yourself.

Read more at spur.org.

Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in July 2012. Photo by  Sergio Ruiz .

Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in July 2012. Photo by Sergio Ruiz.

Heart of the City Adds a New Friday Market Day

Beginning August 3, 2012, Heart of the City Farmers Market will add a new Friday market day to its Wednesday and Sunday weekly market schedule.  The market will be open from 7am to 2:30pm every Friday at the United Nations Plaza.

"Many customers have been telling us that two days a week just isn't enough," said Tony Mellow, a farmer Board member who has been selling at the market since our very first day in 1981.  "We've opened this new market day to help meet the needs of this community."   

There is no full-service grocery store for residents of the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods, so many rely on Heart of the City Farmers Market to provide a much-needed source of fresh produce in the heart of San Francisco. 

"The Super Market" Heart of the City Turns 30!

Heart of the City Farmers' Market's 30-year history was featured in the July issue of the Central City Extra. "Heart of the City Farmers Market will champion its 30 years at U.N. Plaza at its 30th Anniversary Festival on September 14, having successfully connected local farmers to the city's famously low-income central city residents while continuing to move toward a healthier San Francisco. The food nation innovation, announced on circulated flyers in five languages, began Sunday June 14, 1981. Trucks laden with fresh produce, and hailing from Sebastopol to Winters to Fresno, rumbled onto the red brick plaza at daybreak..."

Click here to read more: http://www.studycenter.org/test/cce/index.html