Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 2 - Public Markets Conference

It was field trip day and I took the Napa Valley tour. We started out at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. As I walked toward the market I saw lots of people walking my way with loaded bags and smiles. This market is so well known and popular that condos advertise their location as "just a short walk from the market". And what a bargain - a nice 1-bedroom for only $300,000.

Lots of shoppers had their own bags or baskets. The Ferry Plaza Market is deeply committed to reducing waste. They post staff by all the receptacles to be sure folks get waste in the right bin because everything is recycled - even the food waste is composted. At the end of May, the market will ban their vendors from using plastic bags unless they're biodegrable so there are large signs warning customers - 28 days till the end of plastic bags so start bringing your own bag or basket.

Frankly most of our farmers aren't keen on the canvas bags we sell at the market because they are afraid their produce will get smashed in them. Customers almost have to buy their produce in order of weight and fragility to keep from having to repack with each purchase. But the farmers appreciate the concept and were, in fact, the ones that asked us to stock the bags because they just hate picking up plastic bags out of the fence rows and ponds. So bring a bag or basket to the market, just be careful how you pack it. Also - our meat vendors will continue to insist on wrapping their products in plastic bags to prevent contamination of any fresh produce that might be sharing the canvas bag or basket.

But, back to the tour. We drove north to Vallejo where a market was underway on their main downtown street. Purchase - organic strawberries. California strawberries are really good when bought from a California strawberry farmer!

Next we drove up to the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Not my kind of market, too posh, too permanent, too much like an upscale food court.

Then we stopped at the Folio Winemakers Studio for a bit about winemaking and, finally, my favorite stop, Green Gulch Farm at the San Francisco Zen Center (left). When asked about wildlife problems, the head gardener Sarah said she didn't have any problems with wildlife and when pressed said that the songbirds generally took the 20' nearest the tree line but the hawks kept them from coming further out. She called the blue heron stalking through the field her gofer patrol. All very Zen.

We topped off the day with a tasting at the Ferry Terminal with tidbits from some of San Francisco's best restaurants. Yum.