On Saturday, May 22, 1993, only two years after the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway reconnected the Ferry Building with the rest of San Francisco, local farmers sold their spring produce outside the building for the first time. The market they created was only the third of its kind in the city. In food-trend terms, that’s eons ago: In 1993, people were still going nuts for fat-free, high-carb Snackwell’s cookies that probably caused them to gain more weight.
In fairness, sun-dried tomatoes were popular, too, and it’s in that spirit that the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) celebrates 25 years of healthful, nutritious food with a 25th Birthday Bash on Sunday, June 10. Some 45 restaurants and 20 beverage purveyors will be there, a mix of friends both old and new — think Sorrel, Robin, Nopa, Slanted Door, A16, Humphry Slocombe, Dosa, Locanda, and Brown Sugar Kitchen — all of them celebrating CUESA’s path to becoming a major player, operating two additional markets and food-education services for several thousand Bay Area students.
Beyond live music, a raffle, and a toast, there will be more to eat than at any of CUESA’s many parties. (Of the $140-$165 ticket price, $90 is tax-deductible.) Since a single birthday cake — even a mega-sized Fudgie the Whale — would be wholly insufficient, there will be 25 in all, created by pastry superstars at B. Patisserie, Craftsman & Wolves, and others. It’s all to acknowledge the good done by programs like Schoolyard to Market, which gives students practical knowledge about entrepreneurship and raising vegetables.
Between industry consolidation, aquifer depletion, and climate change, we know that the next two-and-a-half decades hold immense challenges for California agriculture, and institutions like CUESA are vital for keeping urbanites informed about and engaged with their foodshed. Farmers markets are crucial for keeping people in cherries and lacinato kale — and the environment in fit shape to feed a state with almost 40 million people. Here’s to another 25 years.
CUESA’s 25th Birthday Bash, Sunday, June 10, 6-9 p.m., at the Ferry Building. $140-$165; cuesa.org.