The Alemany Farmers Market: California's First and Most Popular Farmers Market

The Alemany Farmers Market, sometimes referred to as the 'popular market' due to its inviting atmosphere and affordable prices, was the first farmers market to open in California.

Amalia Martínez, a farmer who has been managing the market for the past 30 years, introduces me to Toby Garrone, a mushroom seller who has been at the Alemany Farmers Market all her life.

Foodies will love Chef Neal Fraser's Fritzi Coop, while those who prefer traditional fare can enjoy Magee's Kitchen, the original market restaurant that has been serving its famous corned beef for generations. If you had visited the market when it opened its doors in the 1940s, you might have seen some Asian-American farmers, particularly Chinese and Filipinos.When most people think of a farmers market, they imagine a temporary outdoor market with stalls selling produce. The Alemany Farmers Market faced great opposition in its early years, especially from some San Francisco supervisors and major grocery stores, who experienced a drop in sales after the market was created.

Small farmers had a harder time, since they didn't grow large quantities of produce and traditional grocery stores wanted to buy in bulk. According to several farmers I spoke with, markets allow them to sell large quantities of products at retail prices, without intermediaries.Farmers are so eager to continue selling at the Alemany Farmers Market that, according to Amalia Martínez, a farmer normally has to retire before space is available. To increase variety and reduce competition, Alemany Farmers Market limits the number of farmers who sell similar products. As bustling as it may be, it's also in a prime real estate property that's empty except for the farmers market on Saturdays and a flea market on Sundays.

Amalia Martínez tells me that Alemany Farmers Market was founded on August 12th 1943. There are about 700 farmers markets in California, but producers from nearly every part of the state come to sell their products here at the Alemany Farmers Market.In the mid-1990s, when an affordable housing project was built on a nearby hill, opponents feared that housing would destroy the market. But two businessmen had an idea: invite local farmers to park their trucks on the property for a small fee and sell fresh produce to the public; it was a success. While you can buy some beautiful fruits and vegetables here, the Alemany Farmers Market is much more than fruit stands. Anyway, farmers are eager to sell their products in Alemany and there is a waiting list of farmers competing for positions even during the winter “off season” when there is less foot traffic.

Tricia Sweetman
Tricia Sweetman

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