From the farm to the Fillmore

An assortment of summer squash from Oya Organics at the Fillmore Farmers Market.

An assortment of summer squash from Oya Organics at the Fillmore Farmers Market.

THERE’S A friendly new face behind the artfully arranged array of squash, tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans and other produce at the Fillmore Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at Fillmore and O’Farrell.

It’s Marsha Habib, founder of Oya Organics, who started by farming a one-acre satellite garden a few years ago with low-income Latino farmers in San Jose. It was there that she met her partner, in life and Oya, and made the commitment to buy a tractor. She now leases and farms 15 acres of land in Hollister while dreaming of owning her own farm some day.

Marsha Habib of Oya Organics

Marsha Habib of Oya Organics

Habib explains that the name Oya was purposefully chosen. In Japanese it stands for “nurturing”; in Spanish it means “big pot.” And it’s also an Afro-Brazilian diety who represents storm, weather and transitions. That echoes Habib’s personal growth she describes as “a big transition from growing up in the suburbs.”

Driven by a passion for urban social justice and bitten by the farming bug, she at first assumed that local farmers markets were the most natural outlet for a small farmer committed to good organic food.

“But believe it or not, it’s hard to get into farmers markets,” Habib says. Her foray in was arranged through a colleague now at the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association she had known from working together in AmeriCorps.

That connection introduced her to market manager Tom Nichol, a beloved fixture and motivator at the Fillmore Farmers Market who died in May 2015 at the age of 63. Nichol got her into her first farmers market in San Jose, then another in Belmont.

But after her second weekend at the Fillmore Farmers Market in late July, she proclaimed it the friendliest. “I can’t tell you the number of people who walk up and say: ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ It’s a warm welcome,” Habib says. “And I’m so grateful to Tom. I don’t know if we’d be farming today if not for him.”

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