SL San Francisco Adventures: Grocers and Farmers

One of the many things that I loooooove about San Francisco is the food – it’s fresh, delicious and omnipresent!  And I also love the fact that finally, I’m in a place where people talk more about food than weather!

I’ve been trying to think of the way to describe exactly why I’m so crazy about the food environment here.

Is it the freshness?  Yes, but that’s not entirely it.

Is it the creativity?  Yes, but that’s not entirely it.

I think the best word to describe the reason why I love the food here so much is because it is Soulful.

Whether food is bought at restaurant or from a farmer or local grocer, there is an inherent joy to all things food related. Producing it. Selling it. Making it. Eating it.

Speaking of local gardeners and farmers, I have come across the most delightful San Francisco treats.

The first of which is Rainbow Grocery.

It is a super cool, uber funky cooperative grocery store where employees refer to each other as “workers” (as if in a beehive).

According to Rainbow, a cooperative is:

A business or organization that operates democratically through its united voluntary workforce. A cooperative is a term that encompasses democratic collectives, worker-owned, member-owned, and also consumer-owned businesses. Cooperatives can serve economic goals as well as cultural and social aspirations while providing a balanced alternative to the typical pyramidal setting.


One of many murals in the store.


Rainbow Grocery has been in San Francisco’s Mission District since 1975. In an inclusive environment that strives to offer resources, education and a forum for informational exchange for many local communities and organizations.


Gorgeous mushrooms in the produce department.


Their goals include:

  • Providing affordable vegetarian food products which have minimal negative impact ecologically and socially
  • Buying goods from local organic farmers, collectives, bakers, dairies and other local businesses whenever possible
  • Providing our customers with the best possible service
  • Providing Rainbow Grocery Cooperative’s workers with a livable wage
  • Creating a nonhierarchical work space based upon respect, mutuality and cooperation
  • Offering low-cost health care products and resources
  • Supporting other collectives and worker-owned businesses
  • Supporting fair labor practices
  • Donating to local non-profit organizations and schools
  • Encouraging bicycling, mass transit, and alternative transportation
  • Composting all in-store green wastes; recycling, reducing and reusing resources whenever possible
  • Creating a diverse, non-discriminatory multilingual environment


Crystallized ginger. Though beautiful, this took me right back to my days of incessant nausea. Ewwww.


Gorgeous colors in the produce department!


The “workers” are incredibly helpful.  There are tours and educational programs to help navigate the beautiful maze of products.  Though I bought only a few things, I walked out feeling incredibly full to know that such a wonderful place exists (Silver Lining).


Local Vegan Roasted Vegetable Ravioli. YUM!


Six different pesto options. All are also sourced locally. Everything looked and smelled incredible!

Speaking of food and local grocers, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss urban farmers.  I have come across a super cool and funky book, Farm City: The education of an urban farmer by Novella Carpenter.



This book was recommended to me by a shopkeeper at one of the gazillion independent bookstores in town (yes, I’ve visited nearly all of them!).  I recognized it immediately from an article that I read in the November 2010 issue of Vogue written by Hamish Bowels entitled “Now, Forager,” with the subhead: “Hamish Bowles journeys from doyennes to Dumpsters as he gets schooled in the art of scrounging for his supper.”

No, I didn’t remember the name of the article or the date of its publication, but I did remember reading the article in Vogue and being a) fascinated by Novella Carpenter and b) shocked that Hamish Bowels went dumpster diving, following Novella Carpenter as she scrounged for food amidst Oakland’s dumpsters.

Novella Carpenter hooked me with the first sentence of her book:  “I have a farm on a dead-end street in the ghetto.”  Whacky and charming; crazy and ambitious; outlandish and adventurous.

The book is organized in three sections: Turkey, Rabbit and Pig. Carpenter describes her adventures with possums, vegan-anarchists, the aforementioned dumpster diving, and navigating the mean streets of West Oakland in a place called Ghost Town.  Parts of the book were a little (okay, a lot) hard to read because I don’t eat meat and she, well…DOES…& describes it in great detail.

In the book, Carpenter shares an immense (& entertaining!) amount of candor and wit. After the police bust a drug infested grow house, feral dogs decimate her ducks, and prostitutes troll the streets (among other things!), Carpenter responds with: “This place is getting Third-World apocalyptic.”

It is a real hoot of a book.  I especially enjoyed reading it here, in San Francisco which is so close to where she gardens…I mean squats. I mean squat gardens. Though I haven’t (and don’t plan to) venture to Ghost Town in Oakland, reading this account of urban farming there is illuminating and made me giggle – a lot!

Most of all, though, it made me believe that things can happen when and where you least expect them.  Oh, I believe that’s called a SILVER LINING!

Being part of nature connects us to the past, the present and the future.

– Novella Carpenter



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