Meet Our Team: Lulu Meyer

July 23, 2020

Meet Lulu Meyer, who oversees all operations for Foodwise, including our year-round farmers markets, and provides support for our annual fundraising and educational events. Lulu joined the team in 2004 and during her time at Foodwise has developed and refined Foodwise’s Market to Chef Program and Building Equity Program, which supports business growth, economic viability, and asset-building for BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Tell us a bit about you, your background, and your role at Foodwise.

I was a regular market shopper for many years, and had been working in restaurants for more than a decade before I joined the Foodwise staff full time. Just after I left culinary school I discovered that I wanted to broaden my understanding of seasonality and my own local food system, and have a deeper connection to the farmers and food crafters at my favorite market, so I came to Foodwise as a volunteer in the spring of 2004. After a few months I was asked to join the market operations team and had the privilege to learn all about the ins and outs of the farmers markets world from my predecessor and former co-director, Dexter Carmichael.

Over time, I formalized our chef shopping program, and helped to refine our operational protocols, and create systems to better manage the administrative and financial duties related to operating the markets. After Dexter moved on from Foodwise in 2016, I was promoted to Director of Operations and I am forever grateful for the foundation and knowledge he shared with me in the decade plus that we worked side by side.

What’s something that you wish people understood better about farmers markets?

The work is physically very taxing, sure, but there is also an immense amount of emotional labor involved in running farmers markets. Each farm and food business is a unique entity, and they all work harder than most people can imagine, so they deserve to have my full attention and patience every market day.

Navigating the needs of 145 plus small businesses, providing high-touch customer service to our amazingly dedicated market shoppers, and navigating the city, state, and federal administrative reporting and permitting requirements can be quite a juggling act for me and my team. It requires a lot of attention every week and the responsibilities go way beyond just the hours we spend in the market. I can’t tell you how many times people ask, “But what do you do with the rest of the week?” Markets require so many hidden tasks to make them a reality and most people don’t see that. We work hard to make it all appear to be seamless and to create space for our sellers to shine. 

What inspires or motivates you about your work? 

The people! The sellers, my team, and our amazing regulars are what keep me going, especially during this time which has been by far the most challenging of my tenure at Foodwise. I feel very lucky to have grown up in San Francisco, and I consider our markets to be great city landmarks, so working at Foodwise fills me with an immense amount of hometown pride. Every day I enjoy food grown or made by my friends and market family, and that is truly an honor.

What do you do to recharge outside of work? 

I love a day filled with kitchen projects, where I can find delicious ways to utilize my market haul or whatever needs to be harvested from the tiny little vegetable patch in my backyard. I am actually quite an introvert, and being in the markets requires a lot of emotional energy and stimulation, so when I am not in the markets I enjoy my alone time or having projects to work on at home that let me regroup. Lately I’ve been turning to podcasts more and more, and pushing myself to create a reading list and commit to a little time away each week from the news to lose myself in a good story.

Do you have any favorite farmers market tips you can share?

I’m a sucker for short-season, farmers-market-only treats like Bronx grapes from Lagier Ranch, Calçot onions from Allstar Organics, or Ashmead’s Kernel apples from Devoto Orchards. I also like to sneak a peek at what the chefs are hauling around on their carts for inspiration. I can get a little overzealous when I shop the market, especially in the summer months when everything is popping off. So, anything I have too much of gets turned into quick pickles or refrigerator jam, or gets prepped so I remember to use it first. I would recommend that you branch out from the familiar every now and then, even if you’re not sure what to do with those mouse melons or that bunch of dandelion greens, because you might find your new favorite thing

Is there anything else you would like to share?

This market is a vibrant community, and all of us have a role to play to keep it alive and healthy. I have so much admiration and respect for our market sellers and the amazing talents they share with us each week. Our shoppers are such a diverse and savvy bunch, and I am so grateful that they show up each week to support our farms and food makers! It’s my job—but also my pleasure—to spend so much of my time in the markets each week surrounded by my amazing co-workers and all of you. Also, if you see me in the market, please  be sure to say hi, and know that I’m always happy to help find just what you might be looking for or to answer your burning market questions, so don’t hesitate to ask.

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