CUESA IMPACT REPORT Community Is Essential April 2020-March 2021

The period that this report covers, April 2020 through March 2021, put our communities to the test like never before. It brought us a global pandemic, a long overdue racial injustice reckoning, an economic recession, and devastating drought and wildfires. It also proved that resilience comes through people working together to upend broken systems and double down on solutions. More than ever, it reminded us what is essential to sustaining us: community.

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses and inequities of the industrial food system. But when global supply chains were breaking down, wasting food, and endangering workers, our local food community kept people at the center. The CUESA community quickly adapted to strengthen critical lifelines between local, sustainable farms and families in need during the pandemic. We kept our farmers markets open with new safety protocols, expanded food access programs, and redesigned our education programs to support students even as they sheltered in place.

The moment has shown not only how interconnected we are, but that the work of strengthening local food communities is more urgent than ever. We are right here with you in this work. The pandemic is not over and the recovery will be long, while racial injustice, economic inequality, and climate change continue to persist. We have strengthened our resolve to defend what is essential: Farmers and farmworkers are essential. Feeding our community is essential. Stewarding the land is essential. And connected communities are essential in creating the equitable and regenerative food system we all need.

This year was a testament to the power of you: farmers, food makers, chefs, and neighbors working together to create a powerful and resilient local food shed, where small, sustainable farms thrive and everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. Join us in looking back on how we met the moment together.

I’m incredibly grateful for our farmers market community. I’m also grateful that the farmers market didn’t shut down and that CUESA is fighting to keep it open because our livelihoods depend on it. We will all get through this crisis together.

—Jill Kayne, Four Sisters Farm


The pandemic has proven that a community-centered food system is essential to sustaining us through good times and bad. When the COVID-19 pandemic upended our world in March 2020, CUESA quickly responded to keep farmers markets open as essential community food access points. The farmers market was here for you, and you were here for our farmers.

Saturday morning at CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a tradition for us. It’s never been more critical to have access to good, clean, and fair food while supporting the many producers who supply the market with some of the best California offers.

—John and Lolita Casazza, farmers market supporters

Pandemic Response: Keeping Farmers Markets Safe & Open

In partnership with our fellow Bay Area market operators, CUESA worked with state and city officials to ensure that farmers markets remain protected as essential services. We kept our farmers markets open throughout the pandemic, operating 180 markets at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Mission Community Market. We rapidly adopted new safety protocols and developed curbside pickup to keep our farmers and our vulnerable community members connected in this time of uncertainty and great need.

When COVID hit, we, along with most other farm businesses, had to pivot. CUESA also pivoted very quickly and figured out the logistics to provide a safe way to still get fresh vegetables to people while helping out farms. The box program helped to provide some guaranteed sales for us when the foot traffic at the market waned.

—Sandi McGinnis, McGinnis Ranch

Adapting to Serve Our Farmers and Community

Restaurant closures during the pandemic dealt a huge economic blow to many of our small, sustainable farmers, with losses of 50% of their income or more. Meanwhile, the demand for produce pickup and home delivery surged, as vulnerable community members sheltered in place. While some farmers were able to launch online stores or expand existing produce box programs, many farmers needed support to sell directly to shoppers at home.

Pandemic Response: CUESA Farmers Market Box

To support our farmers and community as they sheltered in place, we launched the CUESA Farmers Market Box program, an online store offering contactless curbside pickup at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as well as home delivery. For over 12 months, this program enabled hundreds of households to keep their food dollars in the local community and have access to fresh, healthy produce while providing vital income for more than 60 small, local farms during the crisis.

Many of us are suffering the domino effect of a hospitality industry in crisis. What most of us want is to keep our loyal and hardworking staff members as employed as possible, and to keep our production capabilities ready for when circumstances improve. You can’t imagine how helpful your support is towards achieving these goals.

—Will Brokaw, Brokaw Ranch

I’m so glad I can keep supporting the farmers and CUESA community with minimal risk to the vulnerable members of my family. I’m also coordinating pick ups with a friend to minimize contacts, which has worked out great!

—Maia B., CUESA Farmer Market Box supporter

Hear from our team about how CUESA's farmers market community has responded and adapted during the crisis.


This last year brought to light the essential role all of us have to play in creating an equitable food system, where everyone has access to fresh, nutritious food. As unemployment skyrocketed during the pandemic, so did food insecurity for thousands of Bay Area residents. Our farmers markets were here for individuals and families to access free and affordable healthy food from our local foodshed.

Pandemic Response: Feed Hospitality

When restaurants and bars shut down, the livelihoods of thousands of members of our community disappeared overnight. In the Bay Area and beyond, more than half of hospitality workers lost their jobs. Meanwhile, local farmers who sell directly to restaurants lost critical sales. Launched with funding from spirit companies and donors, CUESA’s Feed Hospitality program created a vital connecting point: providing free produce boxes to hospitality workers in need, while paying small family farms for their harvest.

Feeding the People Who Feed Us

From April 2020 through March 2021, Feed Hospitality distributed more than 2,000 organic produce boxes to unemployed hospitality workers and their families, and directed more than $80,000 to local family farms, specifically next-generation farmers of color. It has been an honor to feed and give back to the people who dedicate their lives to feeding us.

As an unemployed hospitality worker of close to 20 years now navigating the uncertainty around the future of the industry, having access to healthy food is essential during this stressful time. Feed Hospitality was the first program to provide me with assistance and support, and I am truly grateful.

—Susie Valdez, hospitality worker

The program has personally helped me to envision how to diversify income to continue to sustain our overall operations. I have used the funds from this program to pay workers, as we needed more people due to the guidelines we have to follow.

—Rudy Jimenez, Green Thumb Organics

Pandemic Response: Expanding Food Access

The pandemic has increased economic inequality and inequities in our food system. As food insecurity among families sharply increased in the Bay Area, CalFresh usage (also known as SNAP, EBT, or food stamps) more than doubled at CUESA’s farmers markets. Through programs like Market Match, which double customers’ CalFresh benefits at the farmers market, CUESA’s markets helped families stretch their food dollars in order to put fresh fruits and vegetables on their table. We also offered CalFresh boosts and promotions to help customers’ dollars go even further in purchasing nutritious, local food at the farmers market.

Supporting our farmers and sustainable food systems during this time is more important than ever before. With food insecurity issues in our communities increasingly more apparent, the reopening of Mission Community Market is a welcome relief. This means that not only will many more folks have access to fresh and nutritious produce, but also that our farmers have another outlet to sell directly to customers.

—Anna Derivi-Castellanos, former Mission Community Market board member

Food Recovery for Neighbors in Need

At CUESA, we believe everyone should have access to healthy food, and that no fresh and healthy food should go to waste. Through our long-running partnership with Food Runners and a new partnership with SF Community Fridge, our markets donated thousands of pounds of fresh, healthy food to our neighbors in need. These organizations collected local produce that might otherwise go into the landfill or the compost pile at the end of the farmers market day, and made sure it went to community members through pantries and pickup sites.


Our farmers markets provide marketplaces for more than 130 family farms and food entrepreneurs and offer popup opportunities for new food businesses, reflecting the talent, innovation, and diversity of our community. Your support ensures access to economic opportunity for local, sustainable, and BIPOC- and women-owned farms and food businesses, so they can grow and thrive.

Growing the Farmers Market Community

When restaurants closed during the pandemic, many cooks and food workers pivoted to develop their own ventures and pop-up concepts, launching brands and home delivery services through social media. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, innovative food businesses have bloomed, and our farmers markets have provided a platform for new farmers and entrepreneurs to grow their audience and meet customers in person, as they begin to formalize their businesses.

We welcomed these local farms and food businesses at CUESA's farmers markets:

Bi-Rite Creamery | Bocadito | Bolita | Ethel’s Bagels | Four Star Seafood | Fox & Lion | Maison Nico | Midnite Bagel | Norte 54 (pictured) | Papa’s Dumplings | Rainbow Orchards | Ramini Mozzarella | Sunshine Organics | Tamalitos

Advancing Equity with Community Partners

We work with innovative business owners who prioritize sustainability, social justice, and community health. Through partnerships with organizations such as La Cocina and Kitchen Table Advisors, we offer a venue for new BIPOC, immigrant, and women food entrepreneurs to pop up at the farmers market and connect with the greater Bay Area community, sharing their passion and delicious handcrafted foods.

These food businesses popped up at CUESA's farmers markets:

The Baking Endeavor | Buko Bakes | Crisps & Crackles | A Girl Called Pinky (pictured) | La Luna Cupcakes | Loyale Studio | NeoCocoa | Sal de Vida | 1,000 Layer Bakery

I feel like I’m reaching new people at the farmers market. The reason I chose this market is because it is in the Mission, and one of my goals has been to make my product accessible to Latinos. Also, the Market Match program is incredibly important to me. If someone is food insecure and needing a little additional support, the program provides resources by matching food stamps at the farmers market.

—Emmanuel Galvan, founder of Bolita


Kids need healthy food as well as opportunities to learn, grow, and become empowered leaders of tomorrow. As schools closed last year, students adapted to the social isolation and challenges of distance learning, on top of other stressors during the pandemic. CUESA’s education programs provided opportunities for students to thrive, develop new skills, and contribute to their community.

Pandemic Pivot: Foodwise Teens at Home

Foodwise Teens is a paid job training program where teens build skills to sustain healthy lives and a healthy planet. Students learn about food justice, develop job skills, and get hands-on experience in the garden, in the kitchen, and at the farmers market, while getting paid for their work. Before the pandemic, students met with CUESA educators at local high schools to care for their school garden, harvest fruits and vegetables, and create value-added products to sell at CUESA’s farmers markets. When the pandemic hit, CUESA worked with SFUSD to adapt the program for distance learning to ensure that students would still be able to have this valuable experience, even when schools were closed.

Distance Learning with "Grow Kits" & Zoom

Participating students from three San Francisco Unified School District high schools received gardening and cooking "grow kits" at their residences, and were encouraged to invite their family or anyone they are living with to join in hands-on activities. For 10 weeks, Foodwise Teens gathered over Zoom to discuss gardening, sustainability, food justice, and other topics, and share what they learned while they were tending to their planter boxes and cooking in the kitchen away from their screens. The new format provided valuable opportunities for students to interact with their families and each other, even while sheltering-in-place. Despite the "Zoom fatigue" of the regular school day, students felt inspired to keep their video cameras on and connect face-to-face with their peers during Foodwise Teens.

I’m very good at speaking to people. That’s my strong point. I haven’t been able to do that [during the pandemic], and that’s been really hard...I can’t stress this enough that the farmers market was so amazing. I learned something, and I felt like a bright new pupil. I got a good feeling. I don’t know how to explain, but I get this feeling a lot when I’m eating really healthy, just feeling clean and positive, like good things are gonna happen.

Azucena, 10th grade, Foodwise Teens

Essential Job Skills & Connection, IRL

Gaining work experience "in real life"at the farmers market is a key pillar of Foodwise Teens. As part of the distance learning program, students were still offered the option to work outside and socially distanced at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays, under the guidance of our operations team. Forty of our students opted in, providing much-needed in-person social interaction, job skill development, and a source of income to bring home and share with their families. For many students, it was their first time getting paid for their work!

I learned a lot about food justice. I feel like this program educated me a lot about how to specifically help my community be food wise. I appreciated the fact that this program helped share resources and ways to have access to nutritious food.

Ellie, 12th grade, Foodwise Teens


Though we could not gather in person for live cooking demos and talks, CUESA kept our free education programs going in the virtual space to connect you with farmers, chefs, and food movement leaders throughout the pandemic. From our farmers' fields and food makers' kitchens to your screens and homes, we provided an online space for our community to share their experiences and food wisdom, even though we were apart.

From the Farm to You: Sharing Farmers' Stories

Through videos, we took you to the fields and helped to amplify the stories of our essential farmers as they worked tirelessly to feed us, while caring for their families and employees during the pandemic. Even while facing economic uncertainty, devastating wildfires and smoke, and fears for their workers’ safety, farmers welcomed us to their farms, opened up to share the challenges they were facing, and their hopes for the future.

To me, resilience is not stopping, it's not backing down, even though we've been thrown so many challenges to overcome. It's still getting up each day. We have thousands of reasons, literally...a lot of lives that we take care of every day, that get us up and get us going. So much of what fuels what we're doing is getting people as close to their food as they can be. It's the stories and the relationships that you can build. That is a unique experience.

—Dede Boies, Root Down Farm

Thank you so much for all you do to support local farmers and thank you for sharing our family’s story. At the center of our farming has always been community. We are so grateful for the relationships with you and all our customers who supported Yerena Farms...We are all in this together.

Adrian, Poli, and Ricardo Yerena, Yerena Farms

Bringing Our Community Together, Virtually

Working with our farmers market community and partners like SPUR, Slow Money, and the San Francisco Chronicle, we gathered online to share food knowledge and build a powerful and engaged food movement. We discussed the realities our food community is facing and solutions to some of the most challenging problems of our day, such as pandemic lifelines for local farms and community food access, restaurants adapting through crisis, and supporting Indigenous communities. Here, Greg Massa of Massa Organics and other farmers shared stories of pandemic's impact on farms and resiliency.

Pandemic Pivot: Virtual Cooking Demos

While our free Market to Table cooking demos were on hiatus during shelter-in- place, we worked with our local chefs and food makers to share their recipes and food wisdom online, using the bounty of our farmers market, and adapted lessons from Foodwise Kids to bring culinary education to kids and families in their homes. Here, Chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu's shares some of his favorite ways of preparing shelling beans from the farmers market.

The market is so essential, because it is where all of us—the chef, the farmer, the home cook—can connect. Maybe now more than ever, we can all see the importance of being connected to our local food and local community.

Jacques Pépin

Investing in Racial Equity

We know that the work of building a just and equitable food system begins at home, and CUESA doubled down on our diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work. For the third year, our team participated in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge to deepen our understanding of racism in the food system and work toward dismantling white supremacy. We developed our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Framework and our organizational work plan. We increased salaries to improve pay equity for market staff. We look forward to sharing more and having conversations with you about this work in the coming months.

Bakers Against Racism

Partnering with the Bakers Against Racism campaign, our farmers market community directed $12,872 to organizations that support Black lives and community health in San Francisco, including 3rd Street Youth, Collective Impact, Rafiki Coalition, and Young Community Developers.

Sponsoring SF New Deal

In 2020, CUESA served as the temporary fiscal sponsor for SF New Deal, a new nonprofit launched during the pandemic to meet the urgent needs of restaurants and food businesses while feeding the city’s most vulnerable residents.

New Leadership: Christine Farren

With deep roots at CUESA, Christine Farren took the helm as Executive Director in April 2020, deftly navigating the uncertainties and stewarding the organization through one of the most challenging times we've ever faced, while supporting our team and positioning us for future growth.

“I joined CUESA in 2003, a time of big transition and change, as we moved back to a renovated Ferry Building and finally had a permanent home base. In the 18 years since, this community has helped us grow the depth and breadth of our educational programming, diversified our sellers and market offerings, celebrated the bounty each season has brought, and challenged us to do more and better for social justice in the food system. Thank you for sustaining us.”

—Christine Farren, Executive Director


Over the year, 133 dedicated volunteers, including interns, chefs, committee members, and board members, generously donated 3,120 hours, providing customer service at the farmers market, packing produce boxes, supporting distance learning for Foodwise Teens, and more. They did all this not only while staying socially distant, but radiating smiles and positivity behind their masks. More than ever, our volunteers were essential to keeping our work—and our team—going!

I chose to volunteer at this time because it’s outdoors and they have COVID-19 safety precautions, and also to provide a helping hand to those who can’t visit themselves. While at home trying to make sense of the chaos of the pandemic, finding volunteer opportunities here has truly helped me feel more connected with my community and the heightened challenges we face.

—Hannah Satuito, CUESA volunteer (bottom left)

It’s important to provide programs for the youth especially during this time when everything is online. I like that CUESA offers programs that can get the younger generation involved in their community and learn about issues that are tied to larger problems in the world. I didn’t have these resources growing up so that’s why I wanted to become a part of Foodwise Teens specifically to experience how it is teaching the youth about the food system. I just want to be a part of an organization that’s able to serve the younger community and offer an outlet during the pandemic.

—Jackie Liu, Foodwise Teens Intern


We could not do this work without you! We asked you for your help as we navigated financial hardships of the pandemic and you answered our call. Last year, 1,093 community members supported CUESA’s farmers markets and education programs through individual donations or purchasing tickets to our Sunday Supper virtual gala. Thank you for contributing to a world that nourishes all people, local economies, and the living earth.


Our 2020-2021 fiscal year was one of adaptation and resilience, and we could not have done all this good work without deep investment from our community. Thank you! We couldn’t raise funds through hosting in-person events, and so you were critical in supporting us through your donations. We were also fortunate to benefit from government support mechanisms such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Employee Retention Credit (ERC). We emerged from this crisis more stable and committed, and we are grateful for everything that got us to this point.


We must continue to fight for what is essential: an equitable, regenerative, and resilient food future for all. The pandemic is not over, and as the world reopens, we are rooted in supporting our local farms and food community in the recovery ahead, providing critical food access, and bringing back experiential food education for eaters of all ages. You are essential to this work! Keep farmers markets thriving, and join us in feeding our community and protecting the essential people who feed us. Our future, and our children’s future, depends on it.

CUESA | 1 Ferry Building, Suite 50, San Francisco, CA 94111

© 2021 Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture.