Commentary

Commentary: ‘The Mayor of Clement Street’

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF FARMER JIM

By Andrea J. Schatz

Every Sunday, rain or shine, it is the farmers who bring the freshest, healthiest, organic nourishment to us, the consumers. We are beyond fortunate to have year-round, farm-to-table produce at the Clement Street Farmers Market.

One of the vendors is Feather River Farms in Yuba City, which is a two-hour drive from San Francisco. Their star is Jim Beckman who has worked for them for 10 years.  

Beckman works at three different Farmers Markets every week: San Rafael, Oakland, and Clement Street in San Francisco’s Richmond District. 

His day starts off with the alarm clock ringing at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings and 2:30 a.m. on Thursday mornings. With his coffee brewing and having showered the night before, Beckman leaves his home in Colusa. 

“I love seeing all the wonderful people that come by (the farmers market) on Sunday,” he said. “They really are so fun. Interacting with them is wonderful. The drive really is the only thing that isn’t fun.

Beckman wears a sweatshirt that reads, “Mayor of Clement Street.” One Sunday morning, he was handwriting signs for a neighboring vendor, whose penmanship is not great.  

“Sometimes you just have to do what’s necessary as the Mayor of Clement Street,” he said.  

Morley, a regular customer, recalls the time Mayor London Breed visited Beckman’s stand. He and the mayor engaged in friendly repartee and she referred to him as the mayor of Clement Street.

When a neighbor approaches the Feather River Farm stand, they immediately hear Beckman’s loud voice welcoming them. Visitors can’t miss his stand – he parks his truck right on the corner of Clement Street and Second Avenue. He parks there so he can unload and display the fresh watermelons he sells during the summer and the Lunga di Napoli squash featured in the fall. The squash weigh around 50 pounds each, and it is quite a sight to see him moving them around the farm stand. 

“I have the freshest, best food at my fingertips three days a week,” Beckman said. 

The selection of produce varies at different times of the year, including apricots, broccoli, cabbage, cherries, grapes, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, pomegranates, squash, stone fruits, tomatoes, walnuts and watermelons.

Beckman knows so many of his customers by name and loves when they visit with their children. He teaches them about farming and all the produce and products he sells. Children are constantly gifting him with homemade artwork they made. 

Beckman has a great sense of humor. He is well regarded by other vendors and staff of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), the organization that runs the Clement Street Farmers Market every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I always like to watch when people ask Jim if his fruit or watermelon is good,” Morley said. “His stock response is: ‘No, I only sell bad fruit.’ 

“What is really unique about Jim is his amazing ability to find common ground and connect with people of all ages, all genders, all ethnicities, all religions and all colors,” Morley added.

“He has an uncanny knack to bring a smile to the face of children, just about better than anyone,” Morley said. “His encyclopedic knowledge of facts and minutiae is the bridge that enables him to be so successful at interacting with people, whether it is talking about Luther Burbank and Santa Rosa plums, or the Cleveland Browns football team, or golf courses he has played throughout the U.S. or the Boston/New York areas. I am no longer surprised when he is able to connect with someone based on his lived life.” 

After a full day at work, Beckman arrives home around 5/5:30 p.m. However, his day does not end there. He is a full-time caregiver to his 95-year-old mother and his sister, who is a double amputee.  

Beckman loves and adores his dog Bosco. He has dedicated his life to helping others and making their lives better.

Andrea J. Schatz, R.N., B.S.N.  Andrea is a working Registered Nurse administering COVID vaccines in schools to get teachers, students and all employees of schools, back to the classrooms again.

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