A Brief History of PCFMA

The Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association is a non-profit corporation, founded in 1988, that is dedicated to establishing and maintaining successful Certified Farmers' Markets around the Greater San Francisco Bay Area.

PCFMA's mission is to establish and operate community-supported certified farmers' markets and other direct marketing outlets that provide: viable economic opportunities for California farmers and food producers, local access to farm fresh products, support for local businesses and community organizations, and education concerning food, nutrition and the sustainability of California agriculture.

Creating Opportunities for Small Farmers

California agriculture is known worldwide for the volume of agricultural products that are produced; for the diversity of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that are grown throughout the state; and for the high quality of these products.

Building this reputation was no accident, but was instead the result of the hard work of thousands of California farmers and the vision of the state's leaders that put a system into place that helped to ensure that when California agriculture was shipped around the country and eventually around the world, that it would arrive in excellent condition and be of the highest quality. This system encompasses a set of rules defining how agricultural products were to be selected, packed and shipped. Today this system is often referred to as "standard pack."

While the standard pack regulations helped to build California's agricultural export business, they had an unintended consequence: it made it more difficult for small farmers to deliver their farm products within the state. A small farmer from the Fresno area who wished to take 10 boxes of fresh peaches to San Francisco to sell, was required to pack his fruit in the same way as a large farmer shipping 10,000 boxes by rail for sale to a grocery store in Chicago. For the small farmer, it was not cost effective. The regulations threatened both the viability of small farmers and the access of California's urban areas to the California Grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

In 1977 the state of California addressed this challenge by creating direct marketing regulations. These new regulations allowed farmers to be exempt from standard pack regulations when selling their products in a certified farmers' market. The direct marketing regulations also stated that only certified producers (farmers), local governments, and nonprofit organizations could operate certified farmers' markets. PCFMA was founded as a nonprofit organization to operate certified farmers' markets and create economic opportunities for California's small farmers.

Finding a Niche and Growing an Organization

PCFMA's first attempts to create economic opporunities for farmers were, unfortuately, less than successful. In its first year, PCFMA worked to replicate a public market model, much like Seattle's Pike Place, but could not generate sufficicent customer traffic to make it sustainable. So PCFMA changed its model to operate weekly farmers' markets, beginning in Oakland, San Mateo and Danville. Since then PCFMA has built its organization on the operation of sucessful weekly farmers' markets that provide economic outlets for California farmers and fun, family-friendly community events in which shoppers have access to the very best of California agriculture.

Since that time PCFMA's weekly markets have grown to over 60 certified farmers' markets in more than 35 Bay Area communities. To support its markets and California's farmers, PCFMA has built a full-time marketing and education department that works to educate the community about healthy eating and sustainable agriculture including nutrition, food preparation and storage, food safety, farm production, and food security.

New Partnerships and New Opportunities

In 2003, a chance encounter between a Kaiser Permanente doctor and a PCFMA staffer at the Jack London Square Farmers' Market led to an innovative idea: Put a certified farmers' market on the doorstep of a hospital to demonstrate the important ties between nutrition and health. Later that year the first farmers' market was opened at Kaiser Permanente's Oakland hospital and a new partnership was born. Since that time the partnership has grown to include PCFMA-operated farmers' markets at 13 Kaiser Permanente facilities in the Bay Area, and development of PCFMA's Cookin' the Market program of healthy cooking demonstrations, which is sponsored in part by Kaiser Permanente.

PCFMA continues to seek out new opportunities to open economic outlets for California farmers and to better serve the communtities in which it operates markets. In 2006 PCFMA was one of only 20 organization nationwide selected to receive a grant from the USDA through its Farmers' Market Promotion Program. PCFMA is also proud to provide leadership in California's agriculture field through the California Small Farm Conference and the California Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets.

In 2008, PCFMA recommitted itself to supporting the health of the communities it serves by launching a new nonprofit organization - Fresh Approach. Fresh Approach is a nonprofit, 501c3, organization focused on community education on issues of health and nutrition. Fresh Approach also works to build community support for the essential role that farmers' markets play in sustaining a strong local food system.