8 Bay Area farmers markets you’ll want to browse

By Kimberley Lovato

It doesn’t get better than fall in San Francisco, when Karl the Fog has moved on and our real summer finally shines. With the kids back in school, there’s no time like now to take on some homework of your own—the good kind. With dozens of farmers markets in and around San Francisco, your basket runneth over with opportunities to rub elbows with local growers and learn about where your seasonal selections come from. Here are eight markets that will amaze you with the variety of farm-fresh and locally made food they bring in each week, proving once again that the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world’s best places to pull up a fork.

Grand Lake Farmers Market
The foodie rivalry between Oakland and San Francisco is hotter than ever, with each city claiming the latest trends, coolest chefs, and top noshing spots. If Grand Lake is an indicator of how deep the culinary bench is in O-town, then SF should just bow out gracefully. This market not only boasts an all-star line-up of fruits and vegetables direct from local farms, it’s also a destination in itself for specialty food items such as Blue Chair Jam (check out their cookbook, too) and kouign-amanns from Starter Bakery that put other buttery bitches to shame. Make like a local and grab some of each, then linger on the lawn and eat them.
When: Saturday 9 AM–2 PM
Where: Splash Pad Park, Lake Park Ave., Oakland, CA 94610

Jack London Square Farmers Market
CUESA (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) are the organizers of the popular Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, and now they’ve taken over this waterfront market across the Bay, but there’s nothing cookie cutter about it. Shoppers can still expect to get personal with the plump and pretty fruit, meat, seafood, and farmers, and stuff themselves silly on pizza from Copper Top Ovens and tacos from Cholita Linda, among others. For a morning kick, follow your nose to Café Santana for freshly roasted coffee by the pound or cup. Check out the free cooking demonstrations in the tent next to the info booth, too.
When: Sunday 9 AM–2 PM
Where: Jack London Square (Broadway and Embarcadero), Oakland, CA 94607

Heart of the City Farmers Market
As the moniker suggest, this market sits smack in the middle the city and dishes out a bounty of locally grown goods, cut flowers, and fresh eggs, plus myriad specialty items—like honey from Marshall’s Farm Honey, run by a beekeeping-family whose Bay Area hives take advantage of ever-changing seasonal blossoms. But it’s more than just geography that gives the market its name. With nutritional outreach programs extending to local schools and more than 1,000 pounds of produce donated each week to needy neighbors, it’s really all about local love.
When: Wednesday 7 AM–5:30 PM; Sunday 7 AM–5 PM
Where: United Nations Plaza, Market St. (between 7th St. and 8th St.), San Francisco, CA 94102

Alemany Farmers Market
Far from the tourist path, this is California’s first farmers market, and the oldest in a city where “eat local” was a thing long before it was the thing. Nearly 100 stalls sell familiar mainstays at affordable prices, luring in locals and mom-and-pop restaurant owners alike. But it’s the unusual suspects that make Alemany a treasure trove for your recipes. Where else can you find sticky corn, lemongrass, and hotter than (insert your own expletive here) Thai peppers alongside cara cara oranges, prickly pair, and guava?
When: Saturday dawn until dusk
Where:100 Alemany Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94110

Mission Community Market
Need an alternative to happy hour at the bar? Head to the city’s vibrant Mission district, where locals gather for food with a side of community-based activism. The open-air marketplace is made up of local businesses, farmers selling local produce, and food vendors offering goodies like the out-of-this-world Peter’s Kettle Corn and rotisserie chicken from RoliRoti. Profits support neighborhood cultural programming and after-school activities, and there’s usually live salsa, bluegrass, or other musical acts, making this a convivial scene.
When: Thursday 4 PM–8 PM
Where: Mission St. and 22nd St., San Francisco, CA 94110

Marin Farmers Market
Leave the architecture gazing for another day and duck behind the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Civic Center in San Rafael, where you’ll find rows and rows of go-to seasonal bounty proffered by farms large and small. Sampling is de rigueur, so just say yes to California cheese, bottles of emerald green olive oil, and fresh baked breads that are as good as it gets (eat your heart out, France). Food trucks roll in to serve empanadas, pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, and plenty of other fuel for your shopping fire, and there are crafts and face painting to please the market’s littlest guests. No wonder the New York Times listed this as a top place to visit in Marin County.
When: Thursday and Sunday 8 AM–1 PM
Where: 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903

Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market
If you’re heading up to Wine Country for the weekend and want to pamper your picnic basket, make a pit stop in Sonoma. Cheese from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese and Petaluma Creamery will pair well with your wine of choice, and don’t neglect to stop for hummus from the well-named The Hummus Guy, who whirs up original and flavored chickpea dips, such as garlic and chives and roasted red pepper. The bread from Mike's is also tough to resist—so don’t.
When: Friday 9 AM–12:30 PM
Where:Arnold Field parking lot, 241 West First St., Sonoma, CA 95476

Healdsburg Farmers Market
When farmers bring in their sustainably grown produce from (mostly) within 10 miles of the Healdsburg Plaza, then you know you’re buying local. Not only is the market held in a cute-as-a-button town at the nexus of the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley wine regions, it’s also one of the original 22 Certified Farmers Markets in California, owned and operated by the farmers and vendors themselves. Arrive early to watch local chefs vie for produce, cheese, meat, and wine—from suppliers such as Healdsburg natives Brix Farm & Vineyard—which will likely appear on the tables at some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants, also found in Healdsburg.
When: Hours: May–Nov, Saturday 9 AM–noon
Where: one block west of the plaza, North St. and Vine St., Healdsburg, CA 95448

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