CCA's Green Guide to the Bay: CUESA

In the spirit of summer and all things sustainable, Charles Communications Associates brings you our Green Guide to the Bay, a series of posts that will highlight sustainable producers, organizations, and businesses near our home town of San Francisco. Charged with the task of sleuthing out and celebrating these pioneers in the field of sustainability, is our summer intern Jules Lydon. And where better to start than with the City's own Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture?

Jules is a college student majoring in Public Relations at Loyola University in New Orleans. Her passion for communications is born from her experience in 4-H, an experience that got her closer to the food system than many young Americans today.

Read on for a tour of the Ferry Building Farmers Market, and to get your tastebuds tingling for the future of food.


 Photo courtesy of Jules Lydon.

Photo courtesy of Jules Lydon.

There’s a giddy satisfaction to letting the juice of a summer peach drip down your hands while gazing out over the Bay Bridge. Looking out over the water from my perch at the Ferry Building Farmers Market, I could not have been more content. Too many peaches never attain that sweet ripeness that screams of summer but mine was perfect, and better yet, grown sustainably.

Due to the rapid urbanization of life in the past few decades, agriculture has been driven to privilege convenience over quality, at the expense of flavor. Although I’m well versed in the farm to plate process because of my background in 4-H, your average city dweller is probably less likely to know the journey food makes to get to our markets and tables. San Franciscans, however, pride themselves on a deep and thoughtful commitment to sustainability.

 Photo courtesy of CUESA.

Photo courtesy of CUESA.

In this city by the bay, a sustainable lifestyle is becoming ubiquitous. San Franciscans want to know where their food comes from. It’s not enough to simply go to a local market anymore. People want to know where that peach comes from, how it was grown, and most importantly, the people who grow it. CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, is a 503(c)3 non-profit organization within the City. Created in 1994, CUESA strives to educate urban consumers about sustainable agriculture by connecting them to local farmers. In 1999, CUESA took over management of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and has since grown to incorporate the Jack London Square Farmers Market in Oakland as of 2016. In order to be declared “sustainable,” CUESA’s sellers must meet the organization’s rigorous tenets: all products must be environmentally sound, economically viable, socially just, and promote humane animal welfare.

CUESA doesn’t just connect San Francisco to the Bay Area’s juiciest peaches: it also provides an assortment of community programs to help realize their vision of a healthy world nourished by a food system that is “good, clean, and fair,” akin to the philosophy of Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini. Food is an essential component of creating a culture of sustainability, but CUESA’s educational model is key to creating an informed and socially responsible public to build a brighter food future.

 Brie Mazurek, Communications Manager of CUESA. Photo courtesy of CUESA. 

Brie Mazurek, Communications Manager of CUESA. Photo courtesy of CUESA. 

CUESA’s educational programs span from talks on sustainability to cooking demos, farm tours to childrens' after school programs. When I met with her for my inaugural Ferry Building visit, Brie Mazurek (CUESA’s Communications Manager) described perhaps the most popular program, Schoolyard to Market, which provides high schoolers with the opportunity to cultivate their own produce for sale at local farmers markets. In participating, youth gain valuable business skills and gain a deeper appreciation for gardening by literally getting their hands dirty and realizing the labor involved in putting food on the table. They come to learn that gardening requires care and patience. It’s a labor of love, and the final product tells the story.

 Farming for the future. Photo courtesy of CUESA. 

Farming for the future. Photo courtesy of CUESA. 

CUESA’s investment in local youth provides a creative alternative to furthering San Francisco’s sustainable commitments. As Brie says, “A healthy food future depends on the next generation of farmers and eaters. We're excited to grow our farmers markets and youth education programs so that we can create more opportunities for sustainable food producers, while building community around good food.”

When I visited the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, I fell in love with the humble yet quirky sense of approachability the stands provided. The first stand of my pilgrimage was Tacolicious. I tried the “Ryan Farr of 4505 meats” which was composed of smoked beef brisket, Oaxacan cheese, tomatillo salsa, market escabeche and chicharrones…Salivating yet? It was delicious, and better yet, a part of the proceeds from my purchase went toward funding the Schoolyard to Market program.

 Imperfect peaches at Tory Farms. Photo courtesy of Jules Lydon.

Imperfect peaches at Tory Farms. Photo courtesy of Jules Lydon.

Second was Tory Farms, which sources produce from their land in Dinuba, 212 miles south of the City. After I selected the delectable peaches described above, I carried them to the checkout counter manned by Rebecca Torosians, co-owner of Tory Farms. Sitting front and center, in the limelight, was a pile of the strangest peaches I’d ever seen. When I asked about them, Rebecca glanced up, smiled and explained the farm’s unique tradition of placing these imperfect peaches on a pedestal to “sing” to customers and fight the misconception of ‘flawed’ produce that leads to such egregious food waste. I left the stand with a giant grin on my face. Later on, I learned that another unique practice her farm employs includes music therapy, wherein “their trees and vines enjoy regular doses of the Grateful Dead” to stimulate plant growth.

I’m not sure where else you would find peaches that “sing,” or tacos that benefit youth’s entrepreneurial skills. The education initiatives and pleasant atmosphere would be enough to keep me coming back week after week if I lived in San Francisco myself. Both are essential to cultivating a healthy food system and promoting a more sustainable future… not to mention, cultivating some insanely sweet peaches.


All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California.  We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.