25 Moments in CUESA History

May 18, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, marks the 25th birthday of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, officially kicking of our anniversary celebrations! The farmers market was created when visionaries like you came together to create a public space for city folks and local farmers to gather, learn, share, and create community through good food.

The movement keeps growing. When the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market began, there were only two farmers markets in San Francisco and about 1,750 in the United States; now there are more than 20 in the city and 8,000 in the U.S.

Here are some memorable moments and achievements you—our community of farmers, makers, chefs, shoppers, supporters, students, and good food advocates—have made possible over the years. We’ll be sharing more highlights at the hashtag #cuesa25. Join the celebration by posting your photos on Instagram using hashtag #cuesa25 for a chance to win tickets to our 25th Birthday Bash on June 10!

1. The first farmers market pop-up. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway is torn down.  The San Francisco Public Market Collaborative is founded in 1992 with the goal of establishing a permanent public farmers market on the waterfront. On Sunday, September 12, 1992, the Collaborative organizes a one-time Ferry Plaza Harvest Market in Justin Herman Plaza, across from the Ferry Building. More than 50 regional farmers and food producers sell produce, meats, and artisanal products, and about 15 of the city’s best-known restaurants prepare street food. Generating $75,000 in sales, more than 10,000 people attend the event, and 2,122 of them sign a petition demanding a permanent market.

2. A permanent Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Starting on May 22, 1993, a weekly Saturday market is established in front of the Ferry Building, with more than 50 farmers and 10 food vendors. By the fall, it proves to be so successful that the Collaborative decides to make the market year-round.

3. CUESA is born. CUESA (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is established in 1994 as a sister nonprofit to the Collaborative, with the goal of educating urban dwellers about the importance of sustainable agriculture and helping them develop an understanding of their connection to California’s farmland and the issues facing it. Working closely with the Collaborative, CUESA offers youth and adult programming at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and local schools, including cooking demonstrations, produce tastings, and garden programs. CUESA later takes over management of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 1999, after the Collaborative disbands.

4. A new vision for the Ferry Building. In 1996, The Collaborative submits a proposal to the Port Commission to establish the Ferry Building as the permanent home of the market. This long-neglected landmark has been slated for renovation, and the promise of a farmers market along the building’s perimeter becomes a critical component in the redevelopment of the interior spaces. The vision for the building is a world-class food marketplace that, together with the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, will showcase the region’s agricultural bounty and food traditions. CUESA becomes a force in realizing this vision.

5. Move to Green Street. With waterfront redevelopment and renovation of the Embarcadero roadway scheduled to start, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market relocates to a parking lot on Green Street on April 6, 1998.

6. Return to the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building Marketplace opens on March 15, 2003, providing permanent brick-and-mortar shops for a number of the businesses incubated in the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. In April, the Saturday farmers market returns to the Ferry Plaza, with more than 100 farm and food vendors and an estimated 30,000 attendees on opening day. The Tuesday market also moves to the front of the Ferry Building, and CUESA launches two new markets, one on Thursdays and a Sunday Garden Market showcasing regional plant growers.

7. CUESA Kitchen. In 2003, CUESA builds a permanent kitchen in the arcades of the Ferry Building. It becomes the home to market-based education programs such as Shop with the Chef cooking demonstrations (which would later become Market to Table), Meet the Producer programs, produce tastings, and cookbook signings, providing free education for thousands of market visitors each year.

8. Farm tours. CUESA launches a public farm tour program in 2003. Through CUESA’s tour program, participants see, taste, and learn about their food first-hand, guided by the farmers and producers themselves.

9. Food stamps at the farmers market. In 2003, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market becomes one of the first farmers markets in the state to accept food stamps, increasing access to fresh, local food for low-income individuals and families.

10. Market to Chef. In 2004, CUESA formalizes the Market to Chef Program, supporting and facilitating direct sales of local farmers to Bay Area restaurants. Over the years, the program grows to serves more than 300 restaurants, becoming a critical source of income for many of the small farms and food craft businesses that sell at CUESA’s farmers markets.

11. The Sustainable A to Z. CUESA installs the A to Z of Sustainable Agriculture photomural exhibit in the arcades of the Ferry Building in 2004.

12. Waste Wise Initiative. On Earth Day 2007, CUESA introduces the Waste Wise initiative, a comprehensive waste reduction program and education campaign at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, featuring custom-made Waste Wise stations and informational displays. More than 90% of the market’s trash is diverted from the landfill through the addition of composting and recycling collection. The program becomes a model for other farmers markets around the country.

13. Sustainability Frameworks for market sellers. In 2007, CUESA develops the Sustainability Frameworks, which spell out principles and best practices for environmentally sound, humane, economically viable, and socially just food production. They are written with the input of Ferry Plaza farmers, artisans, and purveyors, and are used to inform market policy, shape education programs, and inspire change.

14. Thursday street food farmers market. After being on hiatus since 2006, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market relaunches the Thursday market on July 2, with a focus on local street food, on July 2, 2009, as a showcase for sustainable street food. Well before San Francisco’s food truck craze took root, the weekly market highlighted local farmers and innovative fare using farmers market ingredients.

15. Bye-bye to plastic bags. On May 23, 2009, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market becomes the first farmers market in San Francisco (and one of the first in the country) to phase out plastic bags. The market only allows bags that are fully compostable or recyclable within the City of San Francisco waste collection program, such as compostable and paper bags.

16. Schoolyard to Market. In 2012, CUESA launches the Schoolyard to Market youth development and entrepreneurship program, which gives local high school students the opportunity to grow produce and vegetable seedlings in their school gardens and sell them at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Participants visit farms, learn about sustainable food systems, and gain valuable job skills.

17. A new standard for eggs. CUESA adopts a new standard requiring that only pasture-raised eggs be sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in January 2012. The new egg policy marks another important step in CUESA’s commitment to cultivating a sustainable food system.

18. Foodwise Kids. In fall of 2012, CUESA launching Foodwise Kids, a free program for elementary school classes that uses the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as a classroom for empowering the next generation of healthy eaters. Each class consists of an interactive farmers market learning activity followed by a hands-on cooking lesson in the CUESA Kitchen using fresh market produce. Today, the program serves more than 2,500 students annually.

19. Doubling fruit and vegetables dollars for EBT shoppers. In July 2015, CUESA introduces Market Match a nutrition incentive program that doubles customers’ buying power when they spend their CalFresh EBT benefits (food stamps), at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, making farm-fresh produce more accessible for all.

20. CUESA’s Goat Festival goes viral. More than 17,000 goat fanatics visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 2015 to pet baby goats, meet local ranches and cheese makers, and learn about sustainable and humane farming.

21. Seller commitment to sustainability. In 2016, CUESA introduces a seller pledge to encapsulate values and practices of a sustainable food system. The 15-point pledge covers a broad range of areas, such as water conservation, biodiversity, food waste reduction, and worker welfare. More than 100 permanent sellers at CUESA’s markets sign the pledge.

22. Jack London Square Farmers Market. In May 2016, CUESA expands to Oakland by becoming the new operator of Jack London Square Farmers Market on Sundays, offering new educational programming and offering additional opportunities for local farmers, Oakland businesses, and community organizations.

23. Mission Community Market. In April 2018, CUESA takes over operations of Mission Community Market on Thursday evenings, providing operational support for 40+ sellers and community programs at this thriving neighborhood market.

24. CUESA celebrates 25 years in 2018. Today, through five weekly farmers markets, CUESA welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each week, supporting over 180 local farms and small food entrepreneurs, and supplying 300+ Bay Area restaurants with the best-quality produce. We also serve 3,000 Bay Area youth with free healthy food education programs each year, growing the next generation of healthy eaters.

25. What moments to do you have to share? Share your  market memories, stories, and visions with us at #cuesa25. Thank you for being an important part of CUESA and growing the movement for healthy farms, families, and communities. Join us at CUESA’s 25th Birthday Bash on June 10!

Thank you to Eatwell Farm, Leigh Leigh, Amanda Lynn Photography, and Tory Putnam for some of these photos!

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