coronavirus

SF Farmer’s Markets Offer Alternative to Grocery Stores

The Heart of the City Farmer’s Market in U.N. Plaza opened for business as one of the city’s designated essential services under a shelter-in-place order aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19. 

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On Wednesday, there was at least one San Francisco market with full shelves and shoppers leisurely browsing a colorful array of wares. 

The Heart of the City Farmer’s Market in U.N. Plaza opened for business as one of the city’s designated essential services under a shelter-in-place order aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19. 

Despite a light attendance on a drizzly day, produce booths were bursting with carrots, eggs, oranges and a vast spectrum of greens. 

“I found much more out here, much more available, shorter lines,” said Darrell Arrington who ventured out of his apartment for the first time in three days. “The store I went to Friday, Food Co, the lines were half a block long.”

The twice-a-week market is a convenient mainstay for lower income families in the city’s gritty Tenderloin. But in recent days as fears over the spread of the virus touched off a frenzy of shopping, it’s become even more of a vital lifeline to those on the margins. 

In contrast to many grocery stores which have been plagued with long lines, bare shelves and in some cases rationing, shoppers had plenty of space to take-in the produce of farmers from across Northern California and the Central Valley. Among the vendors, Juan-Carlos Gonzalez traveled 90 miles from his farm in Salinas to sell his organic selection of produce. 

“I actually find most people are being very grateful,” Gonzalez said. “They tell me they are grateful for me being here and for all of us.”

There were some changes — the market eliminated samples and offered a pair of hand sanitizing stations. Organizers urged patrons to wash their vegetables at home. 

Yet in some booths, it appeared shoppers didn’t seem concerned with guidelines about social distancing, grouping together to pick over produce. 

“I’m washing my hands, I’m wearing gloves to protect myself” said produce vendor Jennifer Hamlin as she stuffed a bag of broccoli into the wheelchair of one shopper. 

“This is part of the essential services because everybody has a right to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis,” Hamlin said, “which is near impossible to do at the grocery stores.” 

Arrington opened his shopping bag revealing lemons, oranges, an aloe vera plant, and vegetables he planned to use in a stew. He said he would still have to brave the stores to find hand sanitizer and toilet paper. But at least he was relieved to have the fresh produce covered. 

“It’s a necessity,” Arrington said closing up the bag. “We’ve gotta eat. You’ve gotta eat.” 

The Heart of the City Farmer’s Market is open Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

There are a number of farmer’s markets that will continue operating in San Francisco. Check their individual websites to see their operating status.

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