FOR 35 YEARS, THE AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE OF MARIN has been spreading the word about the nutritional and economic benefits of buying locally grown food directly from farmers. Propelled by the ethos (as stated on its website) that “there is probably no single thing any human being can do that is more impactful, beneficial, pleasurable or achievable than to eat seasonally and close to home,” AIM connects communities and agriculture for the benefit of both.
Its first farmers market, opened in 1983 at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, was the first Certified Farmers Market in the county and still runs every Thursday morning. A Sunday Farmers Market soon followed there and is now the third largest of its kind in the state. Since then, the market has evolved, as have its customers.
“Market shoppers are seeking out products that are produced with great care for the land, the animals and the earth,” notes Andy Naja-Riese, AIM’s chief executive officer. “With so much information flowing at our fingertips, shoppers are more informed and asking not just where food is produced, but how it’s produced.”
The farmers market is a platform for that. Certified markets, validated for the status by the county agricultural commissioner, allow approved growers to interact with individual consumers. On a regional scale, this supports area producers; locally, it forges relationships and creates a public space to meet, socialize and learn.
“The Marin Farmers Market is more than a place to shop for food,” Naja-Riese confirms. “It’s a twice- weekly gathering and educational spot.” A stroll through the Sunday Civic Center market makes that clear: farmers and ranchers, cheese- and fishmongers, bakers and artisans engage with a steady throng of familiar and new faces, including chefs, families, schoolchildren and food-lovers, who religiously visit to sample and savor the season’s freshest yield.
The market is poised to further develop and grow. Along with infrastructure upgrades, plans include a new Center for Food and Agriculture that will be a “Bay Area landmark” at the Civic Center, Naja-Riese says, with “experiential learning spaces and beautiful landscaping to bring the Bay Area together and elevate the importance of food and health.” Besides making healthy area-grown food “more accessible to people of all ages, abilities and economic capacities,” he adds, the resource will update growers and eaters about sustain- able practices. “Ultimately, this project will offer a social return on investment through improvements in nutrition and public health, community food security, climate action and economic development in Bay Area communities.
For a full listing of farmer’s markets in Marin, have a look at our guide here.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food writer, editor and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area. She authors the nationally syndicated column and blog TasteFood, and co-authored the cookbook Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture (2015 Silver Medal Winner Independent Publisher Awards). She is the 2011 recipient of the Chronicle Books Award (Recipe Writing) to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, and a 2018 Fellowship Award recipient to the Symposium for Wine Writers at Meadowood, Napa Valley. Lynda’s writing and photography have been recognized by the New York Times Diners Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post and more.