For nearly thirty years, I have been blessed to call Marin County, California my home. There is much to love about this unique and diverse place on Earth, which explains why people flock here from all over the world. From towering redwood groves that first inspired John Muir, to rolling oak-studded coastal hills, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, Marin has something for everyone. Its close proximity to San Francisco and the Napa Valley wine country make it the perfect landing-place for visitors exploring the Bay Area.
Marin is also “foodie” heaven. We are fortunate to be surrounded by working farms and ranches that are growing, raising, and making high quality, award-winning products. West Marin County, in particular, has become a mecca of national merit in the artisan food movement, and is a destination for both locals and tourists seeking the best it has to offer.
I was recently invited to spend the day on a Culinary Farm Tour sponsored by the Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Our group consisted of hôteliers, restaurateurs, event planners, and chefs with one shared thing in common: a love of good food and an enthusiasm for supporting our local farm community. The tour was designed to showcase the thriving food culture in West Marin and the remarkable array of offerings available in our backyard. It was a fabulous opportunity to experience first-hand what makes our county a culinary destination. In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing our journey in a multi-part blog post.
We kicked off the day in San Rafael with a walking tour of the Thursday Civic Center Farmers Market led by Brigitte Moran, CEO/Executive Director of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM). Moran oversees seven farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, including the Sunday Marin Civic Center market which has over 240 vendors and is the third largest of its kind in California.
We strolled leisurely through the vendor aisles, stopping to visit with local producers and marveling at the seasonal bounty in their booths. Tables heaped with fresh produce, meats, cheese, baked goods, honey, fresh flowers and more offer patrons, including many local chefs, the chance to make their selections while chatting up the farmers.
AIM’s mission of education and outreach is focused on making healthy, fresh, local food accessible to everyone in the community. The non-profit is also the only organization in the United States that audits its producers to guarantee the farmers are actually growing what they sell. “When you shop with a farmer at one of our markets you are connecting with your food at its source,” says Moran who notes that AIM supports over 400 farms from 38 different counties in the state.
The organization will soon begin construction on a permanent Farmers Market Pavilion in San Rafael next to Highway 101 near the current civic center site. In addition to providing retail space, the highly visible Market Hall & Canopy will include an education center with programs focused on teaching consumers about local food, nutrition, and sustainability. This video offers insight into the market and the permanent Pavilion to come:
Shopping at farmers market has been a part of my weekly routine since college. I could (and have) spent hours perusing the booths, tasting freshly harvested samples, getting recipe inspiration from the vendors, and engaging all my senses. I enjoy planning meals according to what’s in season, and have adopted a conscious “farm to fork” approach to the food I put on our family table. I believe when we understand where our food comes from, and the means behind its production, we are better able to make informed, ethical choices about what we consume.
The Marin Civic Center Farmers Market is open year-round every Thursday and Sunday from 8:00am-1:00pm. For more information on AIM farmers markets in the Bay Area, visit their website.