He created a community

Fillmore Farmers Market manager Tom Nichol was remembered at a tribute on May 23.

HE WAS THERE from the beginning.

When the Fillmore Farmers Market was created in 2003 in the parking lot that later became home to Yoshi’s and the Fillmore Jazz Heritage Center, Tom Nichol was there, helping the farmers set up their stands and encouraging the neighbors to get to know the people who grew their food.

In 2005, when the market moved to O’Farrell Street, he was there, by then with a sense he was helping make something important happen.

“It may not be the biggest or busiest market,” he said, “but it’s the best.”

Nearly every Saturday morning for a dozen years, usually in a yellow cap or shirt, Tom Nichol was at the Fillmore market, which he managed for the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association.

“I’m employed by PCFMA, but I really work for the farmers,” he said. “My purpose at the market is to educate consumers about buying fresh and local — and to create community.”

He established a Saturday morning institution in the neighborhood.

“There is such an incredible sense of community there, with both the farmers and the shoppers,” Nichol said. “The shoppers treat the farmers like good friends or neighbors, making this a fun place for them to shop and for me to work.”

But some of the fun has been missing this year. What’s missing is Tom Nichol. He got the word the day before Christmas Eve. His services were no longer needed. His market would go on, but without him.

It seemed for a while that he might work directly with some of the farmers. But his spirits sagged. His dog died. And then he got sick. He died on May 7 at age 63.

“The Fillmore market is the best thing Tommy Nichol ever did,” said Cecil Patrick, a fellow former farmers market manager who lured his childhood friend from Florida in 1994 to become a part of the urban farmers market movement.

“Tommy always treated everyone with dignity and complete respect,” Patrick said. “He knew the neighborhood. He knew how important this market was to the neighborhood. It was a fit. He orchestrated this incredible gathering spot every Saturday.”

The gathering almost always included jazz. So on Saturday morning, May 23, the regulars in the Larry Douglas Alltet led a musical tribute to Tom Nichol.

He will be missed.

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