SF Underground Market

SF Underground Market

The Last Underground Market

  The Last Underground Market

 

On Saturday, December 22nd, we will hold the last-ever Underground Market.  The Underground Market was an event I started in December of 2009 with the idea to allow myself and a few friends to sell the things that we made, without the red tape and cost of permitting through the city.  The market grew, attracting national attention, and soon it was drawing thousands of people every month. Then, following a front page story in the NYTimes, it got shut down.

But the movement had already spread. It spawned other markets, from Boise, Idaho to Amsterdam. It promoted the idea that people should be able to eat food made in their neighbor’s kitchen just as easily as food that’s been trucked in from across the country.

The idea that what makes food safe is at the local level is not inspectors, but the inherent responsibility and care created by the local community. I think we proved that point. With over 50,000 people eating everything from Webber grill fired pizza to pulled pork, there was not one illness reported to the health department. Over 350 home cooks who’ve sold at the market have gone on to start restaurants, catering companies, foodtrucks and sell their products all over the country. It’s been really amazing to witness how hard everyone has worked to make it happen

Since the market was shutdown last year (the rumor is that SF Department of Health was getting pressure from the state level), we havn’t been able to allow new home cooks into the event. Everyone must be permitted, and I have trouble justifying what is “underground” about the event. That’s not to say the food isn’t still great, and what’s been cool about these last few markets is seeing how successful and professional all our returning vendors have become.

This is the last Underground Market, but not the last market we’ll create. There are too many people making amazing food in this city not to bring them together. We’re still working on the idea, but hopefully by spring we’ll have a brand new event, full of deliciousness to enjoy. We plan to have this event be an outlet for makers from Forage Kitchen, as well as other great cooks around the city, to share what they’re up to.

I am insanely proud of all the vendors who’s hard work and innovative cuisine made this event what it was. Thank you to everyone who helped this happen, whether as a maker or an eater, I feel lucky to have been a part of it. So on December 22nd, we’ll be bringing our favorite vendors and success stories from years past back to SOMArts for the last event of its kind, I hope you’ll join.

The market was a moment in time, a great time, an exciting time, and one of the things I am most proud of creating. I’ve come to realize that it has served its purpose, and now we need to focus on taking the next step in this movement. It’s been an amazing experience. Meeting the eaters as well as the makers. Seeing how excited and inspired people were by seeing what others were creating .

There were seven vendors at the first market, and around 150 eaters coming to feast. We had homebrew in the kitchen, and Ayla Nero playing acoustic on a chair in the living room, surrounded by a semi-circle of folks listening from the floor.

What’s great is that many of the vendors who started out at the market as home cooks have since progressed. Some have opened restaurants, others have gotten great press for their accomplishments, and still others are in stores and shops all over the city. It’s really amazing to see how everyone has worked to make their  dreams a reality.  It’s great to think that we had any part in helping to make that happen.

 

 

 

 

 

SF Underground Market, thoughts

I'm breaking up with my bank, or, why I'm joining a credit union

I'm breaking up with my bank. Now, don't think it's anything that she did, lord knows she's been good to me. 24 hour customer service, flashy website, free bill pay, even an iphone app! You really couldn't ask for more. Sam, my banker at 16th/mission, is the nicest guy you'll ever meet. Always takes care of fees for me, and helps me out whenever I visit. Every time I walk into that venerable institution I'm greeted with a smile. The problem is, we don't agree on one thing, what they're doing with my money.  Although they're really just holding it for me, the reality is that they use it more often than I do. Every hard won dollar I make, from a dinner, created with 14 hour days of planning, prepping, foraging, and cooking, they invest in for profit detention centers. For a wild food walk, whose very purpose is to help people get more connected with their local environment, to know what is edible around them, they invest that money in...I don't even know. I had to google that first example, because the reality is that I have no idea where my money goes.

I spend my life focused about food. Where I get that food, how I cook it, what I think about it, and at the core of those thoughts is a sincere belief that local food is better food. It's better for many reasons that if you're reading this post you probably already agree with, but I think one of the most important reasons is that through a robust local food system, we can create a robust local economy. An economy of people doing something they love, and helping each other out along the way. That's what its all about. That's what local is about. That's what the Underground Market is about. It's the center of all the ideas I have.

It's time we realize that food isn't the only area that we need to focus on. If we want to build something real and lasting, we need to look at who holds our money, and what they're doing with it. Sure, convenience is nice, but at least for me, I can't ignore the rest of it anymore.

Today is Bank Transfer Day. Join millions from around the country and transfer your money out of global banks and into local credit unions, run by locals, for locals. I put my money in San Francisco Federal Credit Union, but here are some links to a couple others to peruse.

SF Fire Credit Union

Patelco Credit Union

Provident Credit Union

If you want to take it one step further, there is going to be a protest to support Bank Transfer Day today (Saturday), at Justin Herman Plaza (right across from the ferry building) at 3pm. Hope to see you there. If you checked out the protest or transferred your money, let us know in the comments section or on twitter.

SF Underground Market

Vendor Video #2: Sidesaddle Kitchen: Vegan and "not gross" desserts

In the second installment of our vendor video series with partner High Beam Media, we bring you Sidesaddle Kitchen.  Hear about her philosophy that you shouldn't think about whats not in food, but what is in it. Watch the video, then donate to her Kickstarter campaign. Sidesaddle has been a vendor for over a year at The Underground Market, and now she's trying to take it legit, with all the fancy permits required.  She makes amazing desserts, and deserves our support.  Help her get there.

Forage SF Vendor Profile: Sidesaddle Kitchen from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

SF Underground Market

Creating an incubator kitchen : A rough guide #1

As you may have heard, we have embarked upon an adventure to start a forageSF incubator kitchen.  This yet to be named space will most likely be in Soma, and if all goes to plan, will open within the year. Someone recently suggested that I start blogging about our process, as a resource for others that are thinking of starting similar projects around the country, so as we work on getting the space open, Ill be talking here about what we’re up to. Everything from what kind of contractors we hire, to licensing, to more interesting fare, like what classes we’re organizing and what the first months rooftop movie programming will be.

My hope is that these posts will serve as a rough guide to others working on similar projects around the country.   I am by no means an expert in the construction of a million dollar shared use kitchen, but if you have questions please ask them here, and I will do my best to answer them.

The idea process:

Opening this kitchen has been something we’ve been thinking about for a while now. The popularity of the underground market definitely shows a need for this kind of space. There is a surging community of would be good makers in this city that the just need the chance to start their businesses. They are searching for help, financial certainly, but also emotional. They need to be shown they can, not only by being given a space to work, but by being provided a road map, and support along the way.

In addition to hard core producers, I also saw a real need on the non-professional/eater side.  People don’t wait in those lines the The Underground Market just to eat, but also to be a part of something. They want to connect with the people cooking their food.  In a food centered town, where going to the next new restaurant means you may glance the chef through a swinging kitchen door, talking to the person who cooked your food, and seeing how excited they are to make it, is a revelation. When conceiving our kitchen, I had both of these group in mind.  So how to create a space that engaged both of these groups, without losing focus of our core mission?

A straight rental kitchen wouldn’t do it. We needed to bring in more than just people starting businesses, especially if we wanted to offer reduced rates to producers, we would need several income streams. That is how we arrived at the model of having several different arms simultaneously of the same business.

Next post : Deciding what to include in the kitchen

SF Underground Market

Our Vendors #3 - and more info on the market

We are making headway on getting the market back open. Working with the gears of the legal apparatus to find a solution. Lawyers talking to lawyers writing letters to talk again. Fun stuff.  Some good will come of it though, and ideally  the market will be open in the next couple months. Until then, check out the vendor stories below, and this great series that Jonathan Kauffman is doing on what it takes to go legit as a food maker. It's a 5 piece story, starts here, but don't click away before reading one of our vendor stories below: Jaynelle St. Jean - PieTisserie

My name is Jaynelle St. Jean, and I am the owner of PieTisserie, a pie shop in downtown Oakland. As a proprietor who launched her business at Forage SF's Underground Market, I wholeheartedly support the continuation and expansion of the market.

In February of 2010, I attended one of the first Underground Markets, held in the Mission District. I was inspired by the wonderful foods and creative artisans, as well as the excitement of customers. A couple of weeks later, I gave away slices of homemade pie to neighbors through the window of my mother's house. People began to call me the Pie Lady, and I considered continuing to give away pie in this manner throughout the city. However, reflecting upon the vendors who sold their wares at the Underground Market, I was encouraged to give selling pie as a business a shot.

In fewer than 18 months, I have gone from making pie in my kitchen for a small network of people, to making and selling pie everyday at a retail location in Oakland, as well as to prestigious corporate clients. PieTisserie has 27 five-star yelp reviews. When I launched PieTisserie I was unemployed. Now, I am supporting myself by doing something I love, and I employ others.

Not only was the market inspirational to me, it helped me not to be overwhelmed by the hurdles to starting a food business. It also allowed me to test my concept with consumers and my commitment to bringing a product to market and growing a business.

The Underground Market spurs enterprise in tough economic times. It also engages people in the sourcing and production of their food, and is one of the most effective community-building events I have participated in in years. It would be a mistake to shut down the market or to change it so substantively as to make it just another farmers market.

SF Underground Market

Our Vendors #2 - Sidesaddle Kitchen and Ahram Namu Kimchi

I feel that too much of the discussion about the market hiatus has been about the Health Department. Why they closed us down, when they’ll let us re-open.  While I understand and appreciate the concern for safety, I feel that the real focus of the market, the vendors, has been ignored. Public health is a something we take very seriously, but it is my sincere belief that it is less the stainless steel countertops and three-compartment sinks that makes food safe, but the care and attention of the producer. These small batch producers all have a deep care for what they are doing, and it shows in their products.

What we should be focusing on are the people who create this food, how they have started, and where they are now. The market has enabled them to start a business that they wouldn’t have otherwise started, and many have gone on to become legitimate business owners. We need to expand the ways that these small producers can get their products out to the public. I’ve asked vendors to respond to a few questions about how the market has affected their business, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the vendor stories:

Sidesaddle Kitchen - Laura Miller

I feel enormously lucky that I found the Underground Market just as I was starting to get serious about Sidesaddle. Being able to meet other vendors, testing out products, and getting exposure to thousands of people every month was incredibly valuable. I never saw the market as a subversive endeavor, but instead as an opportunity that offered a sense of community and support that I couldn't find anywhere else. Aside from the obvious financial challenge of starting a food business, the process can be difficult and discouraging - I may have given up by this point had I not found the market. With contacts made at these events, I have finally gotten into a commercial kitchen and taken the steps to become a licensed operation. Forage successfully organized a logistical framework that is supporting a cultural movement at a grassroots level.

Ahram Namu Kimchi - Ahram Kim

When I first heard about The Underground Market, I didn't know whether or not I had a viable product.  I had a homemade organic kimchi that I was sharing with friends and co-workers.  Many were encouraging me to turn it into a business, but I didn't know the first thing about starting one.  Nearly selling out of all the jars I'd prepared for my first market, made me realize that there was a demand for my product.  It encouraged me to pursue something I have always been passionate about, but never dreamed that I could make a living from.  That first market was a little over a year ago, and now I'm working out of a commercial kitchen and selling my product in three stores in The Bay Area. The Underground Market means the world to me.  Without it, I wouldn't have my own business which has gone from a hobby to my major source of income.  The market provided me with huge motivation to continue to pursue my business.  I went "above ground" 10 months ago, but I still participate in The Underground Market because I love interacting with the public and getting their direct feedback.  I also love the sense of community amongst the vendors.  I've gotten so much good advice from other vendors, and always look forward to trading items and discovering the next big food idea.

San Francisco is a notoriously expensive city and the start-up costs of a business here seem really prohibitive.  The pop-up restaurants, food trucks and The underground market are a reflection of our economic times and the high cost of rent here.  Few people have the capital to rent a commercial space.  When I first started out, I had nothing. The underground market helped me get to where I am now.  It really is a food incubator for those like me who have an idea, but not the means to start a business.  To even get to a point where you want to invest the time and money into starting a business, you need to first figure out whether there is a demand for your product, and the markets help you determine that before you've invested all your savings or quit your day job.  In a city that's known for innovation and progressive ideas, it would be a shame to stifle something that has been so positive for not only the vendor's but also for the public.  Please let the market continue to make a difference to budding entrepreneurs.  Don't makes us take our dreams to Portland!  WE LOVE SAN FRANCISCO!

SF Underground Market

Our vendors

I feel that too much of the discussion about the market hiatus has been about the Health Department. Why they closed us down, when they'll let us re-open.  While I understand and appreciate the concern for safety, I feel that the real focus of the market, the vendors, has been ignored. Public health is a something we take very seriously, but it is my sincere belief that it is less the stainless steel countertops and three-compartment sinks that makes food safe, but the care and attention of the producer. These small batch producers all have a deep care for what they are doing, and it shows in their products.

What we should be focusing on are the people who create this food, how they have started, and where they are now. The market has enabled them to start a business that they wouldn’t have otherwise started, and many have gone on to become legitimate business owners. We need to expand the ways that these small producers can get their products out to the public. I’ve asked vendors to respond to a few questions about how the market has affected their business, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the vendor stories:

Randall Hughes: Oaktown Jerk It was forageSF where my business made its debut with the public. The forageSF market place allows me to get great and very useful feedback from the public. With every market comes a wealth of networking opportunity and I always managed to network with people who in one way or another have helped me launch my business. Now I work out of a commercial kitchen, which has allowed me to get my product to even more venues. I wasn't certain that I could justify investing the money ($10,000 in equipment alone) it cost to establish a legit food company. But after vending at several forageSF markets I felt confident that I was producing something that was worth taking to the next level.

Thanks Iso! You've helped me with my business more than you can imagine! Now I am at the Farmers' Market : http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/markets/oldOakland.php I am scheduling to do many venues in and around Oakland in 2011: http://www.oaktownjerk.com/UpcomingEvents.html And I am also still at forageSF because I really like the market and what it stands for.

I started making beef jerky in my kitchen and would share it with my coworkers. This was my market analysis. I started with coworkers and friends but then knew that I needed the feedback from absolute strangers. That's where forageSF became a very key resource in the success of my company. I think forageSF should stay open because it is the birthplace for so many great artisan companies. This market is a serious springboard for so many folks who are trying something new for various reasons. For me and so many others it has been a place to explore the talents that we have decided to tap into for reasons due to the economic downturn. It's truly amazing to see and feel the energy at the market. forageSF is helping to develop small business ownership. We should be embracing the people who provide such a wonderful venue, which allows us to showcase our wares. What a great thing!

Kai Kronfield: Nosh This

The Underground Market has been invaluable to me and a host of other small-scale producers. It has provided me a venue and a "customer base" if you will, to explore different ideas and to do real-time market research into what products have traction as I build a business from scratch. Aside from the opportunity to sell my wares, the Underground Market embodies a community of vendors/producers who feed off each other and raise each other up. There is no "competition" amongst vendors. We assist each other in terms of honest, knowledgeable feedback about ingredients/flavors/techniques and are a source of encouragement for each other. Not having such a venue would re-establish a great obstacle on the path to legitimacy for a lot of people.

Further to that excerpt, the UM provided me with exposure to dedicated foodie customers who were eager to give feedback and when warranted, praise. It has helped to raise my profile from "a guy on a street with a few candies" to a recognizable and trusted producer of fine artisan chocolates. I'm confident I would have gotten to this point eventually, but this market streamlined that process. I am now cooking out of a commercial kitchen and starting to look at wholesaling and online sales.

Of course I believe the market should stay open. I'm thinking mainly about the people who are just starting out and I think it would be such a shame if they didn't have the same opportunities that I and many of the other current vendors had. Sadly, they may opt not to start a business which would be a shame for them and for the San Francisco food community which has always had a bit of an experimental streak.

Ina Golad: Ina’s Kitchen

Ina's Kitchen was organized to raise funds for a non-profit education foundation that helps underprivileged children to advance their skills in athletics and technology. The underground market provided an incredible forum for Ina's Kitchen to sell its food products. Prior to finding the underground market and meeting Iso, the devoted and energetic organizer, Ina's Kitchen faced many challenges. These challenges included costs of setting up fundraising events, finding space and volunteers to run the events, and advertising. The underground market that Iso has organized takes care of all of these challenges and provides an amazing opportunity for Ina's Kitchen to raise money on behalf of the non-profit education foundation. Ina's Kitchen sincerely hopes that this market remains open so that it and other vendors with charitable goals can enjoy the convenience of this perfectly organized market.

SF Underground Market

The Kitchen (first steps)

I have a post I'm going to put up soon about The Underground Market (we're working on a way to get it reopened, and I'm confident we'll find a solution), but something else I'm really excited about right now is how this kitchen project is moving along. We found a space! It's still in the beginning stages, so not certain, but it's looking good. The space is 10,000 sq feet of wonderful high ceiling'd bliss (with the possibility of having an acre of rooftop farm up top. I'm thinking chickens, goats, veggies for people to use in the kitchen, rooftop movies, rooftop dinner, bees....). This space won't be just a kitchen rental, but a dynamic space with (and these are first thoughts), kitchen rental for vendors, classes in food business 101, web design, menu creation, pickling, butchery, possible shared beer brewing equipment, a retail space in the front where people using the kitchen can sell their products, farming classes for kids, farming classes for grown ups, and a CSA of the products being produced in the kitchen. There is also a cool crossroads alley/road behind the space that would be perfect for closing down and having markets/dinners/good times of all sorts.

Since I sent that email out I've been getting approached by investors who are interested in being involved, and it looks like its really on its way. So, not a ton of info at the moment, other than I'm excited to finally have a space that can be the center of forageSF. A hub for people who want to be involved, people with some/lots/no experience in cooking to start their businesses/learn about food/ eat food/ take classes/ brew beer/ drink beer....the options are endless. If you have ideas/desires for this space, let me know. Ideas you give could be a reality very soon. Iso

SF Underground Market

Underground Market Shutdown : An Update

I started the Underground Market in 2009 as a reaction to the high bar of entry that has been created to start a food business, something that I experienced personally. Starting in a house in the Mission with seven vendors and 150 eaters, the market has grown to feed over 50,000 people and help over 400 vendors get their start.

As many of you have heard, the health department came to the last Underground Market on July 11th and served us a cease and desist letter, stating they no longer considered the market a private event.

The market was able to function to this point because it was considered a private event (hence the market sign-ups). We organized it in this way following a suggestion by the health department. Everyone who walks through the door is a member who knows they are eating un-certified food , so technically the health department doesn't have to be involved.

They have decided (apparently with pressure from the state level), that the market is no longer a private event, and can therefore not continue as it has. We have requested a meeting with the city attorney for a definition of what a private/public event is exactly, so we can determine where the line is, and continue running the market.

This was not an unexpected event. We’ve known that it was only a matter of time until someone became upset about the popularity of the event. Because we’ve been expecting it doesn’t mean that we accept it.

Over the last year and a half The Underground Market has grown into a supportive community of makers and eaters. We see that in the 30-50 new vendors that apply every month, bringing samples of foods they clearly poured their hearts into, and the thousands of people who walk through the door each month to eat that food.

Our goal is to keep this momentum going. We would like to see the market continue to exist much as it has because we feel that it provides a necessary venue for people starting new food businesses. We’re interested in providing a space for entrepreneurs who for a myriad of reasons are not able to abide by the regulations put in place. The regulations, upfront costs, red tape, and lack of clarity in procedures all too often stop amazing food from ever being eaten.

The market is used in different ways by different people. Some are home cooks that have always wanted to sell, but for various reasons have not been able. Cocotutti is a prime example. She sold her first chocolates at the market over a year ago, and has since won national awards, moved into a commercial kitchen, and is approaching markets to stock her goods. KitchenSidecar worked at a bio consulting job, with a food blog on the side, before she found the market. Now she cooks full-time, caters, holds her own dinners, and collaborates on a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors with another vendor, Little Knock. Nosh This was working as an architect before he was laid off and turned to the world of candy. Following his recent appearances in the New York Times, his wholesale accounts have exploded, he has moved into a commercial kitchen, and is working to make “Bacon Crack” a household name.

These are a few examples of people whose business, and some would say lives, have been changed because of their exposure at the market. People who have been able to earn money for themselves instead of populating the unemployment rolls. People who are contributing to the local economy while at the same time expanding the local food community.

We want the Underground Market to be a space for food entrepreneurs to get started on a small scale. And we want to continue to offer them more resources to move forward. We have seen the need for some time to have a space where vendors can produce their wares commercially. A space where we can hold classes on food safety/business, have commercial kitchen space for vendor use, retail space for them to sell, and café space with rotating chefs for them to cook. This space will be a hub, a place where people can come together around the wealth of food being produced in our city. We are starting work on looking for a space/getting details together on the project, and will send more information out soon.

On a personal note, I want to say that I really appreciate all the support people have shown. From emails from friends to tweets from strangers, you have all shown that you think the market is an important event and that you want it to continue.

This shutdown is an opportunity to find a workable model that can help not only The Underground Market in SF, but similar markets all over the country. The precedent we set here will ripple across the country. It will effect not only San Francisco vendors, but vendors nationwide. From cottage food laws to street food, we’ve seen an explosion of opportunity for small entrepreneur food businesses pop up over the last several years. We will continue to move forward toward our goal of keeping the market open, and our struggle can be an opportunity to find yet another way to help this movement grow.

Thank you,

Iso Rabins founder, forageSF

------- How to be involved --------

Contact your local city supervisor or: - Call or email the Mission District supervisor, David Campos

David.Campos@sfgov.org (415) 554-5144

There are also more tangible ways to get involved, especially if you have legal expertise, so please email us if you’d like to get help out:

1. Keep the Underground Market - Legal and political organizing expertise, email markets@foragesf.com 2. forageSF incubator project - Investors, designers, contractors, lawyers email iso@foragesf.com

We want to hear what you think, so if you have any other ideas, questions, or suggestions, please email iso@foragesf.com. To stay up to date on what’s happening, follow our blog at foragesf.com/blog.

follow on Twitter | friend on Facebook | forward to a friend Copyright © 2011 forageSF, All rights reserved. You are receiving this email because somewhere, at some point, you showed interest in wild foraged foods. Meals, Recipes, Foraging trips... Our mailing address is: forageSF 1170 Hampshire san francisco, CA 94110

Add us to your address book

Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences

SF Underground Market

Our goal?

Last night I gave a talk with Sandor Katz of “Wild Fermentation”. The focus was on the underground food scene in America. At the end of the talk someone brought up the point that something we weren’t discussing is what a huge political issue underground food is. How political change is the only way that we are going to make any real progress. I responded that I’m sure there are people out there who are interested in getting involved in the political process, endlessly talking to legislators about their cause and arguing, but that it wasn’t an interest of mine (now that I write that out, maybe I sounded like a bit of a jerk…but its true). It got me thinking. What are the goals of The Underground Market? On the surface the goal is to allow producers to get a leg up on their road to becoming a legit business. The roadblocks put in place by our current regulatory climate don’t allow for the creativity and spontaneity that are needed for a real robust artisan food scene to exist. It just costs too much to get everything in place to try anything new. I think that’s a shame. People should be able to easily follow their passion without being forced to abide by laws that were put in place for industrial-scale producers. That’s why the market exists, but what is the goal? Is the goal to help out just the producers that are able to participate in our market? What about people in other areas that don’t have access to an organization like The Underground Market? Luckily markets have been popping up all over the country, so there are more and more opportunities, but in the end, not everyone will have that access.

The problems the market addresses is not local or specific, but global and systemic. The problem is the belief that food made outside of a government certified space is inherently less safe. I personally don’t believe that’s true. Ive seen home kitchens where I would eat off the floor, restaurant kitchens that you couldn’t pay me to eat from, and everything in between. What makes food safe aren’t stainless steel countertops and 3 compartment sinks, but the care and attention of the person producing the food.  An industrial scale production loses this care by necessity, and therefore needs to be held to different standard that an artisan producer.

So what do we do? The obvious answer is that we change the laws. We’ve seen it happening in some places. 12 states now have cottage food laws that allow for the sale of “non-hazardous” foods. Jams, high acidity pickles etc. No home butchered or cured meats. A few towns in Maine have taken it a step further and voted to totally circumvent the state and federal food safety laws, although I recently read that the USDA has stated the towns don’t have the authority (. So what’s the goal? Is the goal to get California to follow Maine, and do away with regulations for small producers? Do we push for a cottage food law (that is really just a half measure, and doesn't address the root problem)? Do we go along as we are, just waiting for the day that someone decides to shut us down and fine us? I'm not sure.

I don’t like the feeling that I am spending all my effort in the production of something with a tenuous future. I don’t like the idea that any beaurocrat that I offend has the power to take away my livelihood, but I also don’t like the idea of endless political discussions with government. The reason I live my life the way I do is because I have no interest in spending my time talking in circles. I would rather be creating something, but if that creation has no future, what is the value?  For me the value is opening peoples eyes to their own ability to live their lives the way they want to.  Showing them that they have the skills to succeed at what they love to do.  That’s enough for me, but if we really want to change things, maybe it wont be enough for long.

SF Underground Market

May 21st Underground Market Vendors

We're at it again! The Underground Market returns to Public Works on Saturday May 21st, with all new and returning deliciousness to behold: DAY

The Nutless Professor - Black rice cheese crisps & Sweets

Absolution – Hot Sauce

Half Pint Pies – Pies in Mason Jars

Go-go Ma's Gomasio - Gomasio

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Monchi Foods – Pork Kimchi Tamales & Quesadillas

Tapasri – Vegetarian & Chicken Puffs

Urban Preserves – Jams & Pickles

The Cookie Department – Fully Functional Cookies

Simply Mochi - Mochi

Feeding People with Love - Ambrosia

Sandy Hill Preserves – Curds, Preserves & Jams

Good Food Catering - BBQ

Wildwood Pastry – Sweet & Savory Galettes

CocoTutti - Chocolates

I.E. Ice Cream – Ice Cream

Taza – Afghan Bolanis

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters – Coffee, Brewed & Beans

Chile Lindo - Empanadas

Sweet Vanilla Bake Shop – Sweet treats

Bay Area Bee Company - Honey

Jablow's Meats – Pastrami Sandwiches

Emmy's – Pickles & Jams

Oaktown Jerk – Beef Jerky

Sugar and Swine – Bacon Caramel Corn

Baia Pasta -- Hand Rolled Pasta

NIGHT

Two Bites – Mini Quiche

Fried Pickles by Kevin Dillan

Adobo - Chicken thigh & pork belly adobo

Gluttony Catering Co. – Duck Confit tacos & Veggie chips

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Frozen Kuhsterd – Frozen Custard

BiBimBopBowl – Korean food

A Humble Plate – Laotian sausage sliders

Boffo Cart – Calzone/Paninis

Schulzies Bread Pudding – Bread Pudding

Rawdaddy's – Vegetarian delights

Sidesaddle Kitchen – Raw Vegan desserts

Hella Vegan Eats –Rare vegan deliciousness

Sajen catering – Kampung spicy rice noodles

Halal Halal – NY Style Halal beef

Jerk. – Jerk Chicken

City Smoke House – Brisket & Pulled Pork Sliders

Busarin kusonroekdee – Thai Curry

Nosh This – Bacon crack and other goodness

Biscuit Bender – Assorted flavors of biscuits

Meat Baller – Meatball Sliders

Island Grubbin – Spam Musabi

Saucy Dumplings! – Saucy gourmet buns

Sanuk – Thai tacos

Marshmallow Mischief – Truffle-sized krispy treats

SF Underground Market

and it was good.

Our very special Easter/Passover Underground Market is over (to be honest it had nothing to do with either of those holidays, but glad people could take a break from feasting to come by). It was quite a success.  We had over 40 vendors, 3200 eaters (a new record), a food truck (a first), and a line down the block.  We were much more careful about capacity this time, stopping entrance at 580 (after which we only let people in when others left), and it made for a much more manageable vibe. We also set up seating outside, so people had a place to sit down and eat. I've felt bad ever since we started having the market at Public Works about the over 21 policy (this is necessary because of the kind of license Public Works has), so we set up an area outside where kids could hang out and eat without actually going into the space. We had about 10 people take advantage of it, which isn't a lot, but a start.  We lowered the number of vendors inside this time around, so people would have more space to walk, and that also improved the overall feel I thought. Overall I (in my humble opinion), thought it was a really great market.

I had a great time, and I hope you did too. I've been looking at some other spaces, and recently sent an email to the armory folks (on 14th/mission, owned by kink.com). Apparently they have a huge space, and maybe they would let us give tours....Thanks to everyone who came out and ate, thanks to all the vendors that made delicious food, it was a good night. Here are a couple pics from the market, in case you didn't get to come. If you are interested in being a vendor at next months market, look here for info on the next sample day. If you're not on our list yet, and want to get a note about the next market, please sign up to be a member here. See you next month!

Iso

SF Underground Market

SF Underground Market - April 23rd - Vendor List

DAY (11am-4pm)

Chile Lindo   - Empanadas

Urban Preserves - Jams and pickles

Oaktown Jerk - Beef Jerky

23 Monkey Tree - Microbrew kombucha

Dulceria - Homa made ice cream sandwiches

Nanny's Mustard - Mustard!

Dehesa Foods - Artisan sausage

780 Sweets - Caramels, candy bars, cookies

Delovely - Granola Bars

SFQ - San Francisco BBQ sauce and duck confit

Tamalago Cafe - Organic ice tea and lemonade

Bay Area Bee Company - Honey and such

Little Knock - Grandmas Vietnamese recipes

Butter Love Bakeshop - Pie and other treats

Laura's Nuts - Candied nuts

JW Cake pops- Home spun cake pops

Minx Mix - Revitalizing drinks (hangover helper)

Marshmellow Mischief - Mini "rice krispie" treats

Wildwood Pastry - Gallete and other goodies

Brittany Crepes and Galettes - Sweet and savory crepes

Loven Kitchen - Savory cupcakes

Wrecking Ball - Brewed and ground coffee

Frozen Kuhsterd - Amazing frozen custard

Simply Mochi - Amazing mochi

The Chai Cart - Chai and Indian snacks

NIGHT (6pm-Midnight)

Tamalenation - Empanadas and other Latin treats

Schulzies Bread Pudding - Bread Pudding

Nosh This - Bacon crack and other goodness

Sidesaddle Kitchen - Raw vegan desserts

Baia Pasta - Hand rolled pasta

Bude - Gado gado and spicy beef

Jilli Ice Cream and Soda - Ice cream. Soda. Happiness.

Kitchensidecar - Bahn mi

Sasanao Nicaraguan Food - Nicaraguan tamales

Saucy Dumplings - Traditional and fusion Asian dumplings

Suite Foods - Leige waffles

Aaron's almost better than sex cake - True to its name

A Humble Plate - Laoation inspired food

Hapa SF - Modern Filipino cuisine

Little Knock - Grandmas Vietnamese recipes

Whole Beast Supper Club - Charcuterie

Wachi-Nango - Fish Tacos

SF Delicious - French street food

ooh la la lumpia - Lumpia

Tomales La Oaxaquena - Veg and meat mole tamales

Jablow's Meats - Home cured pastrami sandwiches

Halal Halal - NY style Halal

Busarin Kusonroekdee - Thai Curry

Vicent Kitirattragaran - Chicken satay burgers

Island Grubbin - Spam and egg musubi

SF Underground Market

SF Underground Market at Public Works March 26th - Vendors

NIGHT

Kitchen Sidecar Bahn mi burgers
Jilli Ice Cream Raw milk ice cream
Jordan Grosser Bacon mochi
The Spoke Pad Thai wraps
Bayareabeecompany Raw local honey
Marge Homemade oreos and pop-tarts
Nosh This Bacon crack
Trista's cake designs Cupcakes
Sidesaddle Kitchen Raw vegan pastries
Daniel Barbosa Brazilian BBQ
SF Delicious Chef Mac and cheese(won SF food wars!)
Venga Paella Paella
Sataysfied Satay
Damn Shiok Kaya Malaysian coconut custard
Boffo Cart Piadini, panini and calzones
Boucherie Charcuterie and fresh butchered pork
Sasanao Nicaraguan food
Chango Loco Tamales
Angry Man Eats Chicken and waffles
Schulzies Bread Pudding Bread pudding
Raja's  Gourmet Foods Homemade dal
Jerk. Jerk chicken
Hella Vegan Eats Vegan deliciousness
Heartbaker Baked goods
Little Knock Vietnamese imperial rolls
Grilled Cheese Guy Grilled cheese
Meat Baller Meatball sliders
Antonik's Barbecue Bbq, satay
Hubie-Q BBQ: spare ribs, tri tip sandwich,
Underground Coffee Coffee beans
Morgans Menu Hawaiian food

DAY

Raw Daddy Amazing food in a cone
Monet's Cakes Cakes
CynfulEats Baked goods
Bike Basket Pies Single serving savory pies
Crystal's Cannables jams, jellies, pickles
Buddha Salt Himalayan crystal salt
Wolf Creek Potato Slicing Potato slices (thick cut potato chips)
Cori Kwon Korean Bi Bim Bop
Butter Love Bakeshop Pies (sweet and savory), crumbles
Finger Sweets Mini cupcakes
Stroopwerks waffle cookies
Oh My Macaroon macaroons
Vickles Pickles Pickles
Ray & Madeana Afghan Bolani w/ yogurt
780 Sweets caramels, cookies, candy bars
Baia Pasta pasta
Celine & Joichi raw kale crunchies, kambucha
Alfajores October 9 in Oakland
SFQ BBQ sauce
Oaktown Jerk Grass fed beef jerky
Peter's Kettle Corn kettle corn
Beet Freaks Beets!
Urban Preserves Local jams
Fat Alley Foods Gumbo
Skincare by Feleciai Skincare products
Tamales By Rudy Tamales
Bacon and Brownies Bacon brownies
Dehesa Foods Artisan sausage
Dandelion Chocolate Chocolate
Angela's Cupcakes Cupcakes

SF Underground Market

February 5th Underground Market Vendors

The market is at SomArts, at 934 Brannan St, in SF. Starts at 11am, ends at 11:00pm. DAY VENDORS:

Sasonao latin Cuisine  --  Tony Ulloa  --  Nicaraguan cuisine Fresh Bite Bakery  --  Cindy Tsai Schultz/Terry Betts  --  http://www.freshbitebaking.com/ --  baked goods Todd Masonis  --  bean-to-bar chocolate mo foods  --  Caterina Rindi/Jae Brim  --   www.mo-foods.com --  foraged/gleaned pickles & preserves Epicurean Solutions  --  Moira Tocatium  --  Veggie Deli Salads Starter Bakery  --  Brian M. Wood  --  www.starterbakery.com --  bakery Three Bowls  --  Indu Kline  --  Ambrosia - food of the gods James Saltzman's Smoked Bacon  --  James Saltzman  --  smoked bacon & brownies Rokas/Kelli Armonas  --  honey & mushrooms Beet Freaks  --  Sharon Salmon  --  pickles Earth Alchemy Chocolate  --  Susan Marjanovic  --  earthalchemychocolate.squarespace.com/ --  raw herbal chocolate Bread Project  --  Diedre Linburn  --  chocolate chip cookies The Chai Cart  --  Paawin  --  hot chai & chai packets Canvas Underground  --  Peter Jackson   www.canvasunderground.com --  meats & gumbo Raja Sen  --  dal and balsamic vinaigrette Quackery  --  Scott/Ramona  --  kombucha Ben Sawicki  --  flavored kale chips & veggie curry Josey Baker  --  bread Dehesa  --  Edward Lekwart  --  artisan sausages Tamales By Rudy  --  Rudy Santiago  --  burrito-sized tamales German Bread  --  Katrin Staugaard/Daniela Busse  --  traditional German bread & foraged plum jams Le Chaudron Magique  --  Isabelle Sin  --  seasonal jams Kirsten Roehler  --  seasoned goat cheese, seasoned salts & pickled lemons Yaella Frankel  --  chutneys, relishes & salsas Telegraph Hill Coffee Roasters  --  David Oliver  --   www.telegraphcoffeesf.com --  coffee

NIGHT VENDORS:

Flosa Creamery  --  Jordan Grosser  --  bacon-wrapped mochi CoCoTutti  --  Elyce Zahn  --  http://cocotutti.com/ --  caramels, chocolates Jilli  --  Will Schrom and Jacky Hayward--  www.jilli-icecream.com --  sarsaparilla and raw ice cream! Whole Beast Supper Club  --  Kevin Bunnell  --  pig products Lan Kulapaditharom  --  Tawainese: beef/chicken slider & shrimp wonton Lelajay's Ridiculously Good Gluten-FREE  --  Lila Akhzar  --  gluten-free brownie bites Aaron's Almost Better Than Sex Cake  --  Aaron Keller  --  chocolate oreo-toffee cake & beer dogs Sidesaddle Kitchen  --  Laura Miller  --  www.facebook.com/SidesaddleKitchen --  raw vegan pies Mama’s African Kitchen   --  Dupe Bello  --  traditional African curry dishes JazzyB's Recipez  --  Jasmine Ball  --  mac n’ cheese-veggie & w/pork belly A Humble Plate  --  Rathsamee Ly  --  Laotian Food Saucy Dumplings  --  Michael Lee  --  pork & vegetarian dumplings Hella Vegan Eats  --  Sylvester Chitica/James Raushenberg  --  www.hellaveganeats.com --  Vegan deliciousness Luscious Liquids  --  Kathy DeWitt/Tracee Raptis  --  elixirs and such Sajen Foods  --  Morisinah Katimin  --  Gado-gado & satay burger w/peanut sauce (Indonesian street food) Laksa Pho King  --  Stephen Backer  --  Vietnamese Pho & Malaysian Curry Laksa The Occasional Macaron Shop  --  Katie/George Wang  --  www.facebook.com/macaronshop --  macarons Angry Man Eats  --  Paul Midgen  --  chicken & waffles Tamale Nation  --  Alison Greenwood/Maria  --  tamales & empanadas Eric Eberman  --  veggie empanadas Bake It Banana  -- Courtney Dougherty  --  banana desserts

OUTDOOR NIGHT VENDORS: Kitchen Sidecar  --  Katie Kwan  --  www.kitchensidecar.com --  banh mi burger Pizza Hacker  --  Jeff Krupman  --  pizza The Grilled Cheese Guy  --  Michael Davidson  --  grilled cheese Sataysfied  --  Feldo Nartapura  --  www.sataysfied.com --  Indonesian satays Boffo Cart  --  Rhasaan Fernandez/Crystal Williams  -- hot sandwiches & paninis Panguita  --  Andre Joffroy  -- beer battered fish tacos & beef tostadas

SF Underground Market

Night Market

A couple weeks ago, we had our real first Underground Market collaboration with Public Works.  It went really well.  Dare I say it was one of the best markets yet?  Almost all the vendors sold out and over 2,700 people came throughout the day.  The Public Works space is really great: two floors with enough nooks and crannies that you’re always discovering new food creations around every corner. On top of that, there were two full bars, which is of course never a bad thing.  We had 60 vendors with everything from bacon wrapped mochi to brick oven pizza to jerk chicken to Vietnamese crab noodles to kombucha. Throughout the day portion of the market, about 500 people came through, which was a good amount for the space. We had a pretty broad range of vendors, from chicken and waffles to kombucha, and everyone who came through seemed to have a good time. The space is such that less people fill it out, although the capacity is still pretty high.  I left at 4 to get some last minute prep done (I made ramen with char siu for the market).

Although I also organize the market, I almost always cook something.  The reason I started the market in the first place was so I could have a booth, and I’m always more happy cooking than just standing around. When I came back just before six, there was already a line wrapped down the block, and around the corner.   It was great to see. It felt like the second market we did. The first market we ever threw attracted 150 people, and the second one had over 800. I never imagined it would be that popular.  It was so exciting to walk out and see that many people at an event I was organizing. This felt the same way; it had that same sense of excitement. The line was there for most of the night, although it was moving pretty fast, and the market didn’t really die out until around 1am.

Music has always been something we’ve wanted to include in the market.  From the first time, with 15 people sitting in a circle around an acoustic guitar player, I’ve always imagined that music was one of the things that set our market apart from a regular farmers market.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time it’s been an afterthought, something we have, but is not given the attention it needs to really be a focus. Public Works handled that this time. Although it wasn’t exactly the kind of music I listen to, I thought that it gave a nice vibe to the day.  It really went off just like we talked about, with chill, background music during the day that gave way to hard electronic from 12-2. We also had a smattering of acts, from a violin player to an accordion, that were playing throughout the market. It gave a nice vibe, something akin to a Parisian street fair.

Public Works is definitely somewhere we’ll be again. The guys who work there made it super easy to pull off a great market, and the space is great.  We’re actually thinking about having it outside when the weather gets better, which should be a lot of fun. We would close off the street, with a beer garden, music, and lots of vendors outside.

That’s all for now. Overall I think it went great.  A good first collaboration, and definitely not the last (I’m meeting with Kelly from Indiemart this week).   The great thing about this kind of collaboration is the way it takes us out of our heads. Gets some fresh ideas, and exposes us to other audiences. It’s good to see so many people come out to support this kind of event.

Every vendor at the market is someone who is trying to make their passion their profession, and a market like this shows that it’s definitely possible.  For those of you who came late and didn’t find too much food left, very sorry. Amazingly, almost every vendor sold out by 10pm. We actually went out to the market and bought ingredients for egg sandwiches at 11, just so there would be something left. It was amazing how much people bought.  Thanks to everyone that came out, both sellers and buyers, you’re the reason it all works.  For more pics from the market, check out our facebook page

The next market is Saturday Feb 5th at SomArts, 934 Brannan, SF from 11am-11pm

Thanks

Iso Rabins

photos by Andria Lo

SF Underground Market

"Night Market" Vendors- Jan 15th

The next SF Underground Market will be a happening Saturday January 15th, as a collaboration with PublicWorksSF.  Basically, we're bringing the food, and they're bringing the music. Something that's always been a part of the market, but until now has not had the focus we'd like.  This is going to be a lot like the markets you've come to know and love, but we're upping the ante on the party in the later evening. We are still going to have a full market, starting at 11am, but instead of ending at midnight, we'll be going until 2am with more drinks, more food, and more music.  All of our favorite new and returning vendors will be there making delicious food I'm really excited about this, so come out, eat some food, drink some drinks, and support local food.

DAY VENDORS:

Shazam Biscotti  --  Sharri Samuel  --  biscotti (toasted almond, white chocolate & dried apricots) Bodega Kombucha  --  Frank Wang  --  kombucha-unique flavors SFQ  --  Michelle Manfredi  --  sfqinfo.blogspot.com --  BBQ sauces Orlando Richards  --  traditional Jamaiican sauces & drink Chinobe Kitchen  --  Sonya Wang  --  assorted rugelach Dolce Leche  --  Yannina Pacis  --  cookies-ube, pb & j and smores Andy Dale  --  Andy Dale --  organic sunflower oil Zukra Bakery  --  Leslie Quinn  --  www.zukrabakery.com --  gluten-free baked goods Dona Lucy Salsa  --  Natalia Anguiano  --  chicken mole Eat This! Real Mexican Grub  --  Cisko Garibay  --  salsa Oaktown Jerk  --  Randall Hughes  --  http://www.oaktownjerk.com/ --  beef jerky Golden Roots Catering  --  Amber Shigg  --  Vegetarian Home Cookin' Sasonao latin Cuisine  --  Tony Ulloa  --  empanadas and plantain chips ZubRub  --  Mark Szelenyi  --  beeswax-based lip balm & body product Tamala Go Cafe  --  Raquel Contreras  --  enchilada flat wheels (enchilada tacos) The St. Park  --  Patrick Noon  --  healthy chai bars/chocolates Sweet Madness  --  Christina/Jen Yu   --  Delicious Meats & Sweets Empanadas de mi Pueblo  --  Keith Agoada  --  http://lucinaskitchen.com/ --  empanadas Butter Creations  --  Matt & Grace Dougan  --  www.buttercreations.com --  flavored butters She Sells Seaweed  --  Kacie Loparto  --  foraged seaweeds Shy Girl  --  Wendy Weeks  --  chicken pot pie & shepards pie Tasty Jacks  --  Cathy Jackson  --  extraordinary grilled cheese sandwiches Nanny's Mustard  --  Genny McAuley  --  www.nannysmustard.com --  homemade stout mustard Beet Freaks  --  Sharon Salmon  --  pickles

NIGHT VENDORS:

Lelajay's Ridiculously Good Gluten-FREE  --  Lila Akhzar  --  gluten-free brownie bites The Urban Chef  --  Chef Kevin Kroger  --  mint-pop rock chocolate bark, & thai chicken stew Mama’s African Kitchen   --  Dupe Bello  --  traditional African curry dishes Kevin Bunnell  --  pig products Dulceria  --  Marisa Williams   --  cookies & cakes PizzaHacker  --  Jeff Krupman  --  pizza 23Monkeytree  --  Julia Lazar/Tom Franco  --  kombucha Sidesaddle Kitchen  --  Laura Miller  --  www.facebook.com/SidesaddleKitchen --  raw vegan pies Lan Kulapaditharom  --  Tawainese: beef/chicken slider & shrimp wonton Angry Man Eats  --  Paul Midgen  --  chicken & waffles Nucha  --  Ruben Gamundi  --  www.nucha-empanadas.com --  Authentic Argentinian Empanadas The Only Cookie  --  Deborah Stegman  --  delicious cookies Aaron's Almost Better Than Sex Cake  --  Aaron Keller  --  chocolate oreo-toffee cake Boffo Cart  --  Rhasaan Fernandez/Crystal Williams  -- hot sandwiches & paninis Marge-American Sweets  --  Megan Gordon  --  pies, oreo cookies, baked goods Bay Area Urban BBQ  --  Larry McClendon  --   Urban BBQ/Soul Food Good Foods Catering  --  Dontaye Ball  -- BBQ Pulled pork with spicy slaw JazzyB's Recipez  --  Jasmine Ball  --  mac n’ cheese-veggie & w/pork belly POPstand  --  Abby Pontzer  --  popsicles Ahram Namu Kimchi  --  Ahram Kim  --  Organic kimchi and kimchi topped hotdogs Raja Sen  --  dal and balsamic vinaigrette Biscuit Bender  --  Van Dao  --  biscuits Saucy Dumplings  --  Michael Lee  --  pork & vegetarian dumplings Kitchen Sidecar  --  Katie Kwan  --  www.kitchensidecar.com --  banh mi burger Nosh This  --  Kai Kronfield  --  Irish coffee on a stick/bacon brittle The Occasional Macaron Shop  --  Katie/George Wang  --  www.facebook.com/macaronshop --  macarons

When: Saturday January 15th 11am-4pm: Drinks, Hot Food, Mellow music 6pm-2am: Drinks, Hot Food, More Music

Where: PublicWorksSF 161 Erie St. (b/t Mission/14th st.) San Francisco How: Sign up for free membership. (Required to get in.) 11am-11pm: $5 11pm-2am: $10 21+ Drinks: Ful bar-serving all day

SF Underground Market

Lessons Learned from A Year of Underground Markets

Dec10Market053.jpg

A year has passed since the first SF Underground Market.  In one year we moved from a small house in the Mission to various warehouses, and eventually to a 17,000 sq ft. event space called SomArts.  We started out with a list of 7 vendors to over 500, from attendance of 150 to well over 2,500.  The idea has spread, and now there are markets in Boise Idaho, Amsterdam, London, Colorado, Marin, and right here in SF.  Many of our vendors have gone from being people with passion, cooking for their friends on the weekends, to full time Artisan producers, selling at stores and farmers markets throughout the area.  The market has morphed from a one off event into a semi-monthly vendor incubator.

IMG_5108

One year ago we threw the first SF Underground Market, in a small house on Bryant St.  Despite being paid a visit by the health department, the market was a success (read my post about that here).  Throughout the year I’ve found that there are an abundance of home cooks out there producing amazing food.  People with the skills to go pro, the problem is a lot of people don’t think they can. For whatever reason; financial, emotional, they don’t do it.   There are many hurdles to getting into traditional markets. Putting yourself on a waiting list for a vendor spot at a farmers market (often a year waiting list, and you need to already be producing to get on the waiting list), then investing $2,000 to make a batch of jam that you’re not sure will sell, and then trying to make a profit, all the while using organic ingredients, and this all on a salary that is probably just covering your expenses while working a full time job, makes this a tough proposition.  Again, a lot of people do it.  But I believe it doesn’t have to be that way, and it seems others agree.

100807a_173.jpg

We certainly hit a vein of some sort.  People love making stuff; be it “Bacon Chocolate Crack” (Nosh This), Vietnamese Crepes (Little Knock), or Jalapeno Jam (Inna Jam).  And perhaps just as important, people like to eat what their neighbors are making. Instead of picking it up at Whole Foods, you get to talk to the producer, and learn through them how your food was produced.

100807a_001.jpg

What is most interesting about the wares at the market is not so much what they are, but how they were made. They were created by a person, rather then a machine-assisted assembly line.  This is often a single person that decided that instead of having a Desperate Housewives marathon, they would get off the couch and make the thing they have been wanting to make for years. The market is a room full of inspiration.  Many of the vendors we have were first attendees who were then inspired by what they saw and decided they could do it too. This is the point of the market. The sales are good. People need to pay the rent, but more importantly, people need to be shown that they can do the thing they’ve always wanted to do. Be it making pickles, roasting whole pigs, making homemade kimchi hotdogs, or Vietnamese crepes.  It is most inspiring to see such a wide range of people become vendors.

100807a_028.jpg

The past year has been full of lessons, such as the finer points of room capacity, how to deal with long lines, trash separation, and what pulling 100,000 watts of electricity looks like.  I have learned that you can in fact have too many cupcakes, and that pork belly buns, although delicious and popular, don’t turn a profit.  I have learned that people don’t really want to carry home bags full of jam while drinking at 10pm (hence the day market), and that if you roast a whole pig, people will come.

100807a_077.jpg

It has been a surprisingly good year.  We grew something out of nothing. In the next year we will be focusing more on the incubator aspect of the market. We are working on providing more vendor support, by organizing a group of professionals that will help the vendors figure out what it means to really be in business; from logo and website design to legal and financial help.

100807a_135.jpg

The market is not a destination for an established business, but a stepping stone to realizing one’s passions and potentials, while providing the opportunities and tools to do it.  I’ve recently realized that up until now, most vendors have had to figure out what it means to start a food business from the ground up on their own, and I would like to change that.  Most businesses are started without the support they need to succeed.  What the Underground Market means to be is a community of people helping each other to change that.

If you’re reading this, you are probably involved in the market in some way, as a customer or a vendor. We’d love to hear about your experiences with the market. What’s good about the market and what would you like to see happen?

Iso Rabins 1/1/2011

photos by Robin Jolin

SF Underground Market

mea culpa

So some new information has come to light since I sent that email about SB510. The food safety and modernization act: 1. I got it wrong. Yesterday I emailed people about speaking out about this bill, since I felt it could endanger the underground food movement by hurting small producers.    Turns out the bill already passed in the House last Monday, a week before I sent the email....a bit embarrassing to be sure.  The articles I was reading did not give a date, and for some reason I got it into my mind that it was this Monday. Feeling a sense of urgency, I sent an email without realizing that it already passed, as well as not knowing the finer points of the bill, whoops, my apologies.

2.  Another fact I failed to realize is that the bill had been very much improved with the addition of the Tester-Hagan amendment.  With Tester-Hagan, local growers and sellers are given a pass on some of the more onerous measures of the bill.  It exempts food producers making less than $500,000/year, those that sell directly to consumers, and to customers within 275 miles of their farm.  It also exempts producers that are already inspected by a local government agency (such as the health department).

This makes the bill less dangerous than it previously would have been. I wonder if this could actually encourage the local food movement.  If a farm can save money by selling locally (by being exempt, avoiding paperwork etc.) it may entice more farmers to focus their sales in their communities.

The more I read about this bill the less sure I am about any position. It seems people fall into two camps:

One believes this bill signals the end of small food production as we know it.  By placing undue burden on small producers in the form of extra paperwork and record keeping, the cost of which large scale producers can more readily absorb. This camp sees the bill as an Orwellian overhaul of the way we relate to food, criminalizing even the simple act of giving backyard veggies to your neighbor. They imagine hoards of FDA swat teams knocking down the doors of every small farmer in the county that doesn't file the necessary paperwork.

The second camp thinks this bill won't  change much of anything.  Although it does give the FDA more power, and require more regular inspections of facilities (up to once every 5 years from once every 10), it doesn't give them the necessary budget to do much more than that. As mentioned above, there are also provisions in the bill that exempt any small producer that is already inspected by a local agency, which means just about everyone who is producing food locally would be exempt.   It does seem to give the FDA new powers to track and inspect food facilities, and to force food recalls (which is great, given at the moment all they can do is suggest a recall).  What it means for producers such as me and the other vendors at the Underground Market, I don't really know.  At the moment we seem to be experiencing (at least locally), a thaw on the puritanical idea that food produced at home is totally unsafe.  People are beginning to realize that not every jar of jam made outside a stainless steel clad facility is dangerous. I would like to see that continue and grow.  We can only hope that the new regulations achieve their stated purpose of making our food safer, rather than being yet another weapon for big business to use against  local food.