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Get a taste of California at a local farmers market

When you're in the Bay Area, you never need to go far to experience California's rich agricultural heritage.

If you're planning on cooking in any of our Northern California hostels -- or if you just want to get a taste of this state's sweet citrus, giant artichokes, or artisan cheeses -- skip the imported produce at the supermarket and find the nearest farmers market. There's one near almost all of our hostels, and in San Francisco, one is open just about every day of the week.

Don't be afraid to head to a market on an empty stomach -- samples abound, as do stands selling prepared foods. But be sure to bring plenty of cash, as credit cards aren't usually accepted. Bargaining for small quantities of produce or food is generally frowned upon.

San Francisco

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
The Ferry Building, Embarcadero at Market Street
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. / Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., year-round

In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed part of the two-tiered freeway that used to separate downtown from the historic Ferry Building, giving the city a chance to re-envision its waterfront and give a home to a public market.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market features fruit and veggies from nearly 100 California producers alongside artisan breads, farmstead cheeses, and local wines. On Saturdays, classes and events like "Market to Table" cooking demonstrations and discussions are scheduled -- visit the market's website for details.

Heart of the City Farmers Market
United Nations Plaza (4 blocks from the City Center Hostel, 7 blocks from the Downtown Hostel)
Wednesdays & Sundays, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.,
year-round

The Heart of the City Farmers Market aims to bring cheaper, fresher, and more nutritious food to the inner city, where other affordable grocery options can be hard to find and the average resident lives below the poverty line. Here, you'll find up to 65 stalls of veggies lining the plaza, as well as baked goods, Indian food, falafel, and tamales.

Crocker Galleria Farmers Market
50 Post Street (6 blocks from the Downtown Hostel, 10 blocks from the City Center Hostel)
Thursdays, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.,
year-round

An upscale shopping mall might seem an unlikely place to find farm-fresh produce, but Thursday afternoons the first floor is filled with California farmers' umbrellas, pints of berries, heirloom tomatoes, homemade granola bars, and light jazz music.

Upper Haight Farmers Market
Waller Street at Stanyan Street
Wednesdays, 4 - 8 p.m.
, April 28 - October 27

Five blocks from the Haight-Ashbury intersection, at the edge of Golden Gate Park, the Upper Haight Farmers Market showcases produce and prepared foods from 25 California vendors. Occasionally cooking demonstrations are scheduled; see the market website for details.

Sacramento

Certified Farmers Market
Cesar Chavez Plaza (2 blocks from the Sacramento Hostel)
Wednesdays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
, May - October

This Certified Farmers Market features seasonal produce grown by California farmers. A handful of other markets happen throughout the week in Sacramento, but this one is the closest to the hostel. If you want farm-fresh produce but aren't in town on a Wednesday, see the Certified Farmers Markets website for other locations.

Point Reyes Station

Certified Farmers Market
Highway 1 (7 miles from the Point Reyes Hostel)
Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
, June - November

This Certified Farmers Market includes produce grown by Marin Organic farmers. The Marin Organic association also puts on farm- and food-related events and lectures throughout the year; their calendar is online.

Sausalito

Certified Farmers Market
Sausalito Ferry Landing (5 miles from the Marin Headlands Hostel)
Fridays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.,
May - October

Held at the Sausalito Ferry Landing, this market features produce, breads, dairy products, and fresh cut flowers. June through August, the market is followed at 6:30 p.m. by Jazz and Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in downtown Sausalito.

Pacifica & Half Moon Bay

Coastside Farmers Market
Rockaway Beach in Pacifica: Wednesdays, 2:30 - 6:30 p.m., May - December
Shoreline Station in Half Moon Bay: Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., May - December
(Both are 7 miles from the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel)

This market happens twice weekly in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. The region is one of the largest producers of artichokes and Brussels sprouts, and you'll also find wild king salmon, goat cheeses, and honey at the market. Only the most local produce is for sale at this market -- all farmers have a tie to the Coastside community, all fresh fish are caught by Half Moon Bay fisherman, and all smoked fish is on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch "recommended" list.

Pescadero

Pescadero, where the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is located, does not have its own farmers market, but the region is full of local agriculture -- including roadside farm stands, pick-your-own strawberries and olallieberries, and Pie Ranch, a hands-on farm and food system education center.

For more information on what Pescadero's farms and ranches have to offer, check out the story we wrote last spring about California's coastal bounty.

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