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Farmers market gets a new boss

Grant Ike is the new manager of the market — the fourth in the past two years.

Grant Ike is the new manager of the market — its fourth in the past two years.


February’s raucous rains may have limited the ingredients you’ve tossed into your summer salad bowl.

The Fillmore Farmers Market is still trying to recoup the fruit and vegetable vendors it lost because of the rising waters on farmland this past winter.

To help lead the resurgence, Grant Ike has been named as the new manager of the market — the fourth since popular founding manager Tom Nichol was removed and later died in 2015.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill — but I wear a size 14,” says Ike, himself a former nut vendor at other markets.

The Fillmore market currently is home to 10 farms. It lost one farm permanently after the rains and three farmers returned late, offering fewer products than before. The copious rains delayed the spring planting and crops that were expected in May didn’t arrive until June, says Allen Moy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, which runs the Fillmore market.

That led some patrons to fear its days might be numbered. Not so, says Moy. “The association is continuing to see this market as stable and growing,” Moy says. “It definitely is not failing.”

The Fillmore market has been in business since 2003 on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Since 2007 it has been located at Fillmore and O’Farrell, and now operates year round.

But its location hampers the market’s success. It has room for 16 vendors, with wiggle room for three or four more. It is hard to expand, Moy says, because the half block it takes up is hemmed in by neighboring driveways.

Ike, the new manager, says he is “working hard” to bring in more vendors. Just the week before, he says, he called 50 farmers to invite them to participate, but reached only two or three. He is especially keen to bring in an avocado vendor. Ike took over the market in July and says he is intent on “rejuvenating” the Fillmore market, along with the others under his supervision on Divisadero and in the Castro.

“I kept seeing them cycle in and out,” Ike says of market managers. “It made me want to be involved in making it work.”

Patrons shopping at the local market often run into their neighbors, as well as their neighbors’ Pomeranians. The market offers shoppers the opportunity to chitchat and rub shoulders while listening to the live jazz combo a stone’s throw away. It also offers them piles of bok choy, strawberries, green beans, an array of olive oils, smoked salmon and cheeses.

Customers say they shop at the Fillmore market because they want to avoid the big supermarkets, feel confident their purchases are as fresh as they can be — and also because they want to schmooze with their neighbors.

Neighbor Juanita Peterson says some prices are lower at the nearby Safeway. “I’m on a fixed income,” she says. But she still comes to the Saturday market for the friendly energy she finds there. “I’ve been living here for 35 years and I come for the music and the community,” she says.

Vendor Georgio Zografos, of California Olives and Olive Oil, says the customers have changed over the years he’s been selling at the Fillmore market. The neighborhood used to be full of families, but today it has more single people, he observes. He makes a greater profit in the outlying farmers markets in the East Bay, he says, but nevertheless appears every other Saturday with his varieties of oils and olives.

J.P. Koheler of Homemade Italian Foods says he likes the market because, “It’s a little community.” But there has been a proliferation of farmers markets in the Bay Area, he says, and “the business got ruined.” Still, he’s at the Fillmore market every Saturday morning, along with Charlie Clark, who sells smoked salmon nearby.

Clark says he is especially fond of the market because he’s a jazz musician himself and his booth is right across from the jazz combo that plays on Saturday mornings.