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San Diego Public Market Under Way

Aired 9/21/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego has joined the ranks of cities with a public market. Seattle has one, the historic Pike Place, and San Francisco has the Ferry Building. An indoor market with permanent food and produce vendors will open in San Diego next spring. The first phase is under way and open to the public.

Catt White and Dale Steele, founders of the San Diego Public Market, moments after cutting the ceremonial ribbon opening the market to the public.
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Above: Catt White and Dale Steele, founders of the San Diego Public Market, moments after cutting the ceremonial ribbon opening the market to the public.

On a recent Sunday morning, shoppers lined up in front of a freshly painted (orange!) warehouse in Barrio Logan.

It was early, and many had coffee in hand. An Izumi-outfitted cycler clearly out for his morning exercise perched on a bike, detoured.

They were blocked from entering the warehouse by a large orange ribbon spanning the warehouse entrance.

Catt White and Dale Steele, co-founders of the San Diego Public Market, stood in front of the ribbon, armed with scissors, ready to deliver the ceremonial slice.

“Farmers and vendors, are you ready to get growing at the Sunday market?” yelled White. Cheers followed, the ribbon was cut, and shoppers let loose among the produce.

Just three weeks ago, this former boiler warehouse was empty and dirty. After a lot of elbow grease and scrambling, the 92,000 square foot property was transformed into a farmers market, the first step toward the overall goal of a year-round public market.

A public market is not a farmers market, though they share a lot in common.

Produce for sale at the farmers market in Barrio Logan, site of the future San Diego Public Market.
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Above: Produce for sale at the farmers market in Barrio Logan, site of the future San Diego Public Market.

A public market means there will eventually be permanent stalls selling food and produce. It will be open all day, six days a week. Think Pike Place in Seattle, Philadelphia’s Reading Station Market, or London’s Borough Market.

“It’s crazy that San Diego didn’t have one,” says co-founder White. "We have a year-round growing season and a really vibrant food scene. This is the perfect place for it.”

More than 100 public markets are currently in operation in the United States, many of them established in the last 25 years.

San Diego’s version will open next spring. Until then, the farmers market will be held every Wednesday and Sunday. The warehouse can hold up to 88 vendors, selling everything from fresh produce to gluten-free cookies.

Beans for sale!
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Above: Beans for sale!

David Foster mans The California Olive stall and occasionally pours golden liquid through a spout onto morsels of bread in tasting cups.

Foster grows olives in San Felipe Valley and then processes them into olive oil for his family business. He says San Diego’s Mediterranean-like climate is perfect for growing olive trees.

“We start harvesting in the fall, anywhere from October to the end of the year,” says Foster. “We want to catch the trees when they have the right amount of ripeness and then process the oil as quickly as we can, typically within six hours of harvesting.”

Farmers markets are great for chatting with local growers about how they make their products. There’s more interest than ever in where our food comes from, driven by national foodie trends, celebrity chefs and the popular cable channel, The Food Network. There’s a built-in, some might even say obsessive, audience for all things food.

“There are twice as many farmers markets than when I started this concept,” says co-founder Dale Steele. “There are better restaurants, more inventive chefs and people really see food as recreation.”

Physician Linda Firestein writes a local food blog. She drove down from Del Mar to shop. She says San Diego should have opened a public market a long time ago. “It’s so overdue. I go to a lot of the other farmers markets. Some are better than others. Sometimes the vendors come and go and you never really know what you’re going to get, so a permanent market is encouraging.”

The founders of the public market set up a Kickstarter campaign in August to fund the building’s renovation. They raised $146,000, well above their $92,000 goal. “This is such a big community thing,” explains White. “Those that pledged on Kickstarter put it on their Facebook page and then they put it on their Facebook. Social media really kept this thing going.” The market has an active Twitter feed and Facebook page.

This fall, White and Steele have to decide who gets a permanent stall in the public market. A lot of San Diegans have shown interest.

“One chef heard from somebody and he told other chefs who told other food purveyors,” said White. “We’ve done a lot of tours, everything from microbreweries, to the guys from Tender Greens who want to do salumi to the woman who owns Venissimo cheese who wants to come make cheese on site.”

The freshly painted warehouse housing the San Diego Public Market, with mascot cow!
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Above: The freshly painted warehouse housing the San Diego Public Market, with mascot cow!

Barrio Logan, where the market is located, is sometimes called a food desert. Steele says the market will help bolster the surrounding community. “There needs to be healthy food options here. The businesses around here could use some buoying. We’re excited to help do that,” explained Steele.

The market already has a new mascot: A large cow sculpture sits in front of the entrance. A few days before opening, White spotted the cow in a neighbor’s yard and asked to borrow it. It's been a surprising hit, with a lot of families and kids posing for pictures with the cow.

“We’re thinking about having a contest to name it,” says Steele.

The farmers market at the San Diego Public Market is open Wednesday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market is located at 1735 National Avenue.

Comments

Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | September 21, 2012 at 11:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

It's great to see another sustainable local food source for San Diegans to buy fresh and wholesome food that is not Genetically Engineered.

Most Americans are unaware of the existence of Genetically Engineered ingredients in the food they eat and that they are untested for long term safety on children, adults or humans of any age.

There is no evidence showing any nutrition benefit for Genetically Engineered crops grown in the United States yet there is a growing body of evidence these crops are causing biological and ecological harm. Read the GMO Myths and Truths at www.earthopensource.org/index.php/rep...

Nearly 50 countries require labels on Genetically Engineered food, and many of these also have severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale.

Proposition 37 (The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act) on the November 6 ballot would require adding a few words to the label of retail packaged foods if the food contains ingredients that are genetically engineered. Packaged foods already have labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts consumers want to know. Prop 37 is easy to comply with and does not create new bureaucracies, force manufactures to change ingredients or ban the use of genetically engineering. Prop 37 will not add cost to farmers, manufacturers or consumers.

Learn more about voting YES on Prop 37 at www.CARightToKnow.org

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Avatar for user 'surfingprof'

surfingprof | September 22, 2012 at 3:25 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Great story, and we are all excited by the new San Diego Public Market! Also, thank you for the link to Dr. Linda Firestein's great food blog: cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com.

Look forward to visiting the Public Market again soon.

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