Ferry Plaza market delights visitors

SAN FRANCISCO— Irene Artigues, a petite figure with salt and pepper short cropped hair and cheery eyes behind thin-rimmed eyeglasses, is a sprightly San Francisco resident of 81 years.

Every Tuesday and Saturday morning without fail, equipped with re-usable grocery bags in hand and a good pair of walking shoes, Artigues hops aboard the F street car.  She heads to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market to pick up the freshest produce to cook a nice week of hot meals to share with her husband.

Artigues’s trips to the Farmer’s Market are more than just shopping, they are a social routine.

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, since its opening in 1992 quickly became a San Francisco landmark. It is the second-largest farmer’s market in California and is open year-round and its central location in the city, overlooking the bay, welcomes regulars and tourists alike.

San Francisco resident Irene Artigues visits the Ferry Plaza Farmers market every Tuesday and Saturday without fail to buy fresh produce. “It’s a part of the city,” Artigues said (Photo by Karunya Krishnan).

Irene Artigues will not hear of shopping anywhere else.

“It may be pricey, but I’d rather pay the farmer than the doctor!” Irene said with a smile.

Irene comes bright and early to get the freshest fruits and vegetables. These veggies distinguish themselves from their grocery store counterparts by their “crunch, crisp texture and fresh flavor,” Artigues said, because they are picked just a few hours before sale.

Her first stop is to buy leafy greens from Tod Mouna, a farmer from Fresno. Mouna greets her warmly with “Hello Irene, lovely weather we have today.” They exchange pleasant conversation while Irene picks out her veggies.

Artigues has known Mouna for nearly 15 years, since he was a child helping out his family at the farmer’s market, alongside five brothers and six sisters.

“I’ve watched him grow up,” Artigues said. A Ferry Plaza regular, Artigues develops close relationships with many of the farmers with which she interacts.

“Some of them load their troubles on my shoulders,” she said. “It’s such a friendly atmosphere and you really get to know the farmers and their families.”

Joe Garrone, or “Joe the Mushroom Man,” as Artigues fondly calls him, sells different varieties of mushrooms and truffles. To Artigues, Garrone is more than just a mushroom vendor, he is a friend. She even visited Garrone’s son when he was sick and hospitalized.

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market’s atmosphere and location by the Bay transformed the market into a major tourist spot. Thousands of visitors can be seen roaming around the market on Saturday mornings (Photo by Karunya Krishnan).

Garrone calls himself “San Francisco’s official mushroom man” because in addition to their stall at the farmer’s market, they also opened a store inside the Ferry Building, called “Far West Fungi,” where you can find more than 70 varieties of mushrooms.

Shitake or portabella are probably among the only ones a normal person would recognize. Garrone and his son Ian also sell specialty out-of-this-world multicolored fungi in convoluted shapes like “black trumpets” or “yellow oyster.”

“We never thought we would open up a mushroom store,” Ian Garrone said.

The Garrone began, like most other vendors as small farmers who would sell their goods at Farmer’s Market. Ian Garrone is grateful to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market because it presented an opportunity for small farmers like the Garrones to expand their business into a specialty mushroom store open every day of the week.

Aside from locals and tourists, a large portion of the market for Garrone as well as other farmers is with local chefs and “foodies.”

They are easily recognizable by the carts they push around to transport the fresh goods to their restaurants.

Local vendors offer a variety of items for visitors to sample, from nuts and cheeses to different types of jams, dips and chutneys, olives, coffee or dried fruits (Photo by Karunya Krishnan).

David Gingrass, chef and owner of Two Chef, visits the farmer’s market every Saturday because the produce “just tastes better.”

The location is very appealing to chefs like Gingrass. This urban farmer’s market is in close proximity to many San Francisco restaurants, making it easily accessible for chefs to purchase fresh goods.

Its unique location brings them there and the variety of fresh food is a definite plus, but it is the atmosphere is what turns them into regulars.

“It’s a social hub,” Gingrass added.

This atmosphere is what has transformed the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market into a major tourist spot and thousands of visitors can be seen roaming around the market on Saturday mornings.

Terry and Vince Kramer, a couple from New Jersey whom Artigues met on the streetcar told her that they had read good things about the market, but their visit exceeded all their expectations.

“I wish we could take it back home with us,” said Terry Kramer, referring to the entire market. “It has such a friendly, local atmosphere and there are people of all ages. “

One of the main factors that contribute to the atmosphere, Kramer says is that the farmers are “proud of their produce and enjoy what they do.”

An urban farmer’s market, The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market attracts hundreds of locals from around the city, as well as tourists for its fresh produce and as its friendly atmosphere (Photo by Karunya Krishnan).

Kramer walked around the market with her husband and sampled different items vendors had laid out. Locals like Artigues generally buy produce, but tourists are restricted to items that are easily transported and don’t spoil.

The Kramers were delighted at the variety of items available, from nuts and cheeses to different types of jams, dips and chutneys, olives, coffee or dried fruits. Visitors can purchase lunch and sit by the bay and people watch.

“It’s absolutely wonderful, I am so glad we found it,” Kramer said.

Irene Artigues agrees that the market is a treasure. When she was growing up, only certain groups of people, like the French and Italians would grow their own food. In the past 20 years Artigues has seen a change in San Francisco and “plain people, young people, and restaurants” now understand the value of fresh food. This prompted the mushrooming of farmers markets like Ferry Plaza all over the city.

Visiting the Ferry Plaza is now ingrained in her weekly schedule, and the milling of crowds that gravitate to the market shows that it’s popularity is on the rise. Artigues maintains, that the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is more than just a market, “It’s part of the city.”


If You Go:

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is open Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. all year round.

If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive early.

Also, try to arrive hungry in order to try the abundance of food samples are available for visitors.  Food is also sold at the various restaurant stalls at the market.

It is located in front of the Ferry building on the corner of the Embarcadero and Green Street. The Farmer’s Market is easily accessible by streetcar, bus or taxi and is only a 20-minute walk from Fisherman’s Wharf.

For more information, call 415-291-3276 or email

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