Grow the World You Want to See: Build Community

December 22, 2015

Like you, we at CUESA want to see a world where everyone has access to public spaces that feed our hunger for community and fresh, nutritious food. How does your donation to CUESA realize that vision? Throughout December, we’re sharing real stories from our community that show the impact of your donations to CUESA.

For 23 years, Irene Artigues (shown above with farmer Louis Iacopi and below with farmer John Garrone) has grown deep roots in CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. A sprightly 87-year-old San Francisco native, she counts on her trips to the market for her weekly groceries, but they are also a time to connect with farmers and friends she’s gotten to know over the years. For Irene, the market provides a lifeline to her local community, family roots, and personal well-being.

Irene shared what keeps her coming back to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market week after week, and why she thinks it’s so important to sustain CUESA’s farmers markets for generations to come.

San Francisco Grown

I started shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market around when it opened in ’93. The market had been here maybe a month or so, and I’d just moved back to San Francisco, after living in San Bruno to raise a family. I’ve been coming ever since.

The market is my weekly routine. I live over by Aquatic Park, and I don’t have a car, so I usually walk to the market on Saturday and Tuesday. Then when I get my shopping done I hop on the F line and get back home. I walk every day, rain or shine. It’s what keeps me going. My husband is 92. He’s not going out any more, so I cook for him.

I’m now 87 and a half. People say I don’t look that old, and I attribute it to all the fresh vegetables! I grew up in San Francisco, and we always had a vegetable garden. One of my grandfathers raised rabbits in the back, and he used their droppings to fertilize the ground. The farmers market connects me with that. I know how hard the farmers work. Even a small vegetable garden takes time and patience. If you have acres and acres, it’s a real job.

The Market Family

The market is a wonderful community. I’ve gotten to know some of the farmers. I started getting to know Bella Viva Orchards when the market was over on Green Street. They would come in, the mother and the father and the two little girls. The oldest daughter, Vivian, I spotted her right away. She would take a look at all the boxes in front, and then she’d run off to the truck and come back to fill the empty holes with peaches or apricots. Vivian and I  still communicate. She just passed the bar exam, and when my daughter Lucy had an opening at her law office, Vivian applied and got the job. The family calls me “Market Grandma.”

I feel safe with what I buy at the market. The farmers here are not going to feed their kids anything that they know is harmful. It’s fresh. It’s been picked or gathered the afternoon before, and it comes straight here. It hasn’t been sitting on the shelf some place.

I enjoy seeing the kids come in on Tuesdays [for CUESA’s Foodwise Kids field trip]. The kids talk to the farmers, and the farmers take the time out to answer their questions and tell them how it’s done. It’s a connection with the people who feed them. The kids get a view of another type of work that they don’t see in the city. The grown-ups, as well. Most people don’t know how things are grown or the time and energy that it takes.

Come Rain or Come Shine

We depend on farmers. One day it was pouring rain, and the farmers were all out in front of the Ferry Building. It was cold and windy. Louis Iacopi [of Iacopi Farms] said to me, “What are you doing down here?” and I looked at him and said, “Well, you’re here!” We still joke about that.

Without the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, my life would be entirely different. I wouldn’t get the exercise it takes to get here, I wouldn’t have the friendships with the farmers, I certainly wouldn’t get the fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a happy time for me, rain or shine. The market is a rock. It’s stable. We should give what we can to support it and know that it’s going for a good cause, a connection with the whole process. Without good food, your health is not going to be good. That’s for sure.

CUESA needs your help to operate markets and educational programs that connect urban dwellers with local farmers and food producers year-round, rain or shine. Make a tax-deductible donation today.

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