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City parks may host farmers markets

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Farmers markets may soon start cropping up in San Francisco’s prized parks.

A Board of Supervisors committee supported on Monday legislation that establishes a formal processfor organizers of farmers markets to apply with The City’s Recreation and Park Department to periodically set up a market on land overseen by the department.

To date, The City has issued nine permits for farmers markets to open for business, including at the Ferry Building and the United Nations Plaza.

Some community groups have had difficulty in trying to open a farmers market in their neighborhood. For at least four years, the Friends of Panhandle Farmers Market have tried to obtain city permission to operate a farmers market at Golden Gate Park’s panhandle, which is within Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's district. Cheryl Brodi, founder of the group, said that with no clear process in place, the group never succeeded.

Organizers of farmers markets would apply with the Recreation and Park Commission to obtain permission to operate on parkland. The department would decide to issue a permit based on a number of factors. For example, the department would not award a permit if a farmers market would "adversely affect park grounds ... beyond regular usage."

A permit fee of $50 per stall plus associated staff costs would be charged to organizers of farmers markets.

The legislation, authored by Mirkarimi, would also require the Recreation and Park Department in conjunction with the Department of Public Health to develop a list of locations among The City’s more than 200 parks suitable for a farmers market and to issue an annual study on which sections of San Francisco are in the most need of these markets.

Farmers markets are seen as a way to provide healthy food in low-income neighborhoods that are generally underserved by grocery stores. "There’s been a real barrier from encouraging farmers markets in the inner cities of San Francisco," Mirkarimi said. "Now we are proactively reversing direction and encouraging it."

Paula Jones, public health director of The City’s food systems, said the fees might deter organizers of farmers markets from operating in low-income neighborhoods.

"Fifty dollars seems like a very fair price," Mirkarimi said. "If it’s not, I’m sure we will come back and adjust it. But I think it’s a good starting point."

E-mail Joshua Sabatini at jsabatini@examiner.com.