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The farmers’ market was born when a group of Noe Valley neighbors and activists shared their dismay and disbelief at the sudden closure of the local natural food store. The Real Food Company, which had been a part of Noe Valley for 25 years, closed its doors Thursday night before the 2003 Labor Day Weekend, dismissing 30 workers, the majority of whom had been organizing a union.

Recognizing an injustice, Noe Valley neighbors immediately set out to support the workers, farmers, merchants, and neighbors who missed not only their source for organic produce, but an anchor store in the heart of the retail district. As a direct response to the shuttering of Real Food, community members organized weekly meetings at the Noe Valley Ministry attended by up to 200 people per week to decide how to support the fired workers and how to provide healthy food to the entire community. Two key outcomes of these meetings were the decision to assist the Real Food workers in pursuing their claim of “union busting”  with the National Labor Relations Board (a claim ultimately won by the workers in 2007) and the decision to start our own Noe Valley Farmers’ Market to demonstrate that our own community could, with the help of local farmers, provide our own organic and other healthy food  Also, as a neighborhood we very much wanted to find a way to continue to create the spirit of community that had emerged in response to the closure of Real Food, and a farmers’ market seemed the ideal vehicle for doing so.

In the support of this spirit of community and its own values of providing service to the community, the Noe Valley Ministry agreed to co-sponsor the market by offering its newly completed parking lot at 3865 24th Street as the venue.

David Frieders, then acting director of the San Francisco Department of Consumer Assurance (Agriculture), helped the market’s founders wade through myriad papers, permits, and unknowns of city government. Throughout the process, Dave reminded the founders, “You can do this! You can start a farmers’ market in your neighborhood.” Bevan Dufty, the District 8 Supervisor, Noe Valley’s elected representative to the city’s Board of Supervisors, also guided, advised, and interceded at many crossroads of dealing with city regulations. Dan Sirois from the Department of Planning proved invaluable when helping to simplify the confusing permitting process.

On the morning of Saturday, December 6, 2004, a mere three months after Real Food closed, a group of volunteers gathered opposite the empty parking lot before dawn. Bracing themselves with coffee at Martha and Bros., these hearty souls got to work setting up tents and tables, trash cans, and beautiful signs announcing Opening Day. Farmers arrived as the sky brightened and by 8:00 a.m. the first Noe Valley Farmers’ Market was up and running. Reverend Kelsey Keenan, pastor of the Noe Valley Ministry, provided the blessing, praying that the new farmers’ market would find success and create abundance.

The success of the market led many local merchants, neighbors and volunteers to see that interdependence would sustain the health of Noe Valley. Martha and Bros. opened its storage space to keep market equipment; Flowers of the Valley presented the market a beautiful bouquet on its first year anniversary. Thanks to the market, circles of friendship and connection continue to flourish, as well as a renewed sense of community in Noe Valley.