Rancho Gordo Moves Inside the Ferry Building

June 19, 2013


We are sad to report that Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food’s last day in the farmers market will be Saturday, June 29. But the good news is, they’ll be setting up shop and expanding their offering inside the Ferry Building, where you’ll be able to buy their products seven days week! Congratulations to Steve Sando and the Rancho Gordo team on this next big step. Steve offered the following statement:

It’s hard to believe, but about nine years ago, when CUESA decided to take a risk and allow me to sell at the market, not a lot of people were buying beans. My experience from the other markets I did told me that most customers wanted ripe tomatoes for slicing and cut flowers. There didn’t seem to be a lot of cooks, and interest in heirloom beans was almost nonexistent. From the start, things were different at the Ferry Building. The customers and San Francisco welcomed me and gave me a kind of validation for what I was doing that is near impossible to define. I’ve often been described as “enthusiastic,” but the reality is the customers and chefs were like kindling for a fire. It’s been so much fun bouncing ideas off each other, taking risks, and make a lot of good food.

While we still grow the bulk of our food in California, more and more we’re working with farmers and craftspeople in Mexico. Heirloom bean farmers are encouraged to grow for the big superstores, and the work we’re doing is creating a market so they can continue to grow their legacy beans instead of generic pintos or black beans.

I love this work and it’s important, but it’s not what a local farmers market is about, so the move inside makes more sense. Our store will be open by August 1, if not before, and in addition to all the great heirloom bean varieties you know, we’ll have handmade clay bean pots, vinegar made from plantains, fresh heirloom corn tortillas, and—maybe most exciting—rare chiles from Oaxaca and the Huasteca, grown for us by farmers we met through Diana Kennedy. For the lazy, we’ll have cooked beans for you to take home, made by the entrepreneurs of the La Cocina project, and we’re putting our heads together for more delicious projects.

For me, CUESA has been like a finishing school, prepping me for the real world with seemingly endless support and encouragement. Some people whine and complain about vendors who leave, but I think it’s a finite thing, and we need to make room for the new generation of artisan food producers with great ideas and energy. CUESA, and San Francisco, should be proud of this legacy.

I’d like to say a special thank-you to Elizabeth Ponsford, who allowed me to work only six days a week by taking over the market sales. I’m so lucky to have had her represent us, and things won’t be the same without her. Also, a huge shout-out to all the CUESA staff, but I hope it’s OK if I confess that I have crushes on both Lulu and Dexter, at least most of the time.

Thanks for everything. It’s been swell, and I can’t wait to see what happens next with this food revolution that we’ve all had the luck to be a part of.