By Zora Rosenberg
The first-ever Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile on July 5 couldn’t have had better weather. The typical summer fog gave way to a warm and sunny day. It was the perfect start to what many neighbors hope will be a long-lasting tradition.
There was a good crowd all day – from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – exploring the food booths, produce tents, artisans and community organizations and businesses at tables and in tents. The new farmers market, located within steps of St. Ignatius High School, offered a wide array of fruit, vegetables, seafood, and other food, plus plants, crafts, artwork and more.
Music was sponsored by San Franpsycho. Among the acts was a woman playing tunes for the small children gathered around. People appeared to be enjoying the collaborative community space.
However, something as simple as a gathering becomes increasingly complicated because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the nature of a farmers market, it was difficult if not impossible to socially distance, although almost everyone wore a mask, with the exception of small children. The market is contained within one block on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Pacheco streets, which presented a challenge for organizers and patrons. Event organizers have already applied for another block of street closures for ongoing farmers markets to allow safer distancing.
Angie Petitt-Taylor, who is the head of the communiuty event organization Sunset Mercantile and the lead organizer of the farmers market, had been planning for this event for quite some time.
In 2014, at the very start of her venture with Sunset Mercantile, a farmers market was designed as a part of a larger plan. However, nothing came out of it until last year when Supervisor Gordon Mar asked Petitt-Taylor if she would be willing to set up a market in the Outer Sunset. This project took form long before COVID-19, but the pandemic had an inevitable impact on how the event developed.
The first thing Petitt-Taylor emphasized in dealing with the risk of spreading the coronavirus was to make sure the event team was quick on their feet. It was key to prepare for crowds and help people navigate so the market could be as safe as possible. This included attempts at keeping lines socially distanced and preventing people from eating fruit from the stands, usually a staple of farmers markets.
At subsequent markets – there were four events in July – Petitt-Taylor and her team focused on ways to manage the crowds. They have made changes to distancing and waiting lines by adjusting the inflow of community members at the gates. They are also offering hand sanitizer and have hope for another block of street closures. There have also been requests to add a second day to the farmers market to lessen crowds. So far, the market has grown beyond Petitt-Taylor and her team’s expectations.
Petitt-Taylor has bigger dreams beyond the farmers market.
“I do have a little bit of a dream of working out of Sunset Mercantile to help other communities develop a farmers’ market and mercantile that speaks to and of their community,” she said.
“Sunset Mercantile has become a business, but first and foremost, it is creative,” she said. “Its foundation is that of a mission to bring community together.”
The people who went to the first market and who continue to go are living proof of the need for community. Market-goers Richard and Elizabet Murphy had a friend with a booth they wanted to support.
Elizabet said they will “probably be here every Sunday (because) we live across the street.”
Barry Hermanson has lived in the Sunset District for more than 40 years.
“It’s great to have an event like this to bring the community together,“ Hermanson said. He said he was impressed by the size of the crowd. He has been active in politics for many years and said he is considering tabling at the market for the Green Party. He also said he appreciates having art displays in the market.
No matter what comes out of these markets, everyone involved shares the same hope that this will bring the Sunset community together and stronger than ever before.
For more information, visit http://www.sunsetmercantilesf.com.
For more photos from the farmers market, click HERE.
Categories: Sunset District