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The Covert Foodie: Underground Farmers’ Markets

Food Lovers, Offbeat — By Victoria Gutierrez on June 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Farmers markets are a foodie’s best friend.  Fanatical farmers and food producers come out of the woodwork to sell you their most outrageous heirloom tomatoes, their free-est range meats, their local-est honey, and the freshest cut flowers. You pile these precious finds into your resusable grocery tote, ride your bicycle home, and whip up a meal that impresses even your foodiest of foodie friends.

Amidst this smorgasbord of glorious foodie fare, there lies a dark side to the best farmers markets: they are not free to the farmer! Booth fees are high enough to deter the smallest, most niche producers from bringing those rarest and deliciousest of goodies to your neighborhood on Saturday morning… not to mention that any prepared foods are required to have been made in a commercial kitchen.  What to do, what to do? Why, hold an underground farmers market, of course! Disclaimer: NileGuide in no way condones illegal foodie behavior, no matter how scrumptious it may be. Without further ado, here are three underground farmers markets I managed to find for your enjoyment!

Our first underground farmers market comes from dutchgrub: Talkin’ Food’s Amsterdam Underground Market.  More specifics about the event are found here (only click if you can read Dutch). Europe has a rich history of local markets, but apparently even these are getting too commercialized for those farmers and producers on the fringe. Held on May 16, 2010, Amsterdam’s underground market gave conscious foodies the opportunity to buy their local sausages, jams, and other Dutch goodies from the comfort of a semi-private, commercial-company-free environment. Yum.

LexEat! tipped me off to another one of these underground market phenomenons: a London event held at a certain Ms. Marmite Lover’s house (great name, by the way).  While it certainly wasn’t technically ‘underground’, and was more of a bake and craft sale than a farmers market, it provided a great opportunity for individual producers of foods and utensils/accessories to bring their products to 200+ customers in a semi-formal setting.  Complete with bloggers and supper club owners on hand, Ms Marmite Lover’s event was an action-packed day of demos, eating, and wonderfully underground treasures.

And to top it all off, it just wouldn’t be a foodies post without a discussion of San Francisco’s contribution to the underground farmers market scene.  In fact,  the events in London and Amsterdam were actually modelled after the San Francisco Underground Farmers Market, which has somewhat successfully held three markets in the past few months.  Why do I say somewhat successfully? Well, because the food community in San Francisco is a large one and someone snitched to the Health Department (or perhaps the line of people stretching around the block to get in tipped them off). Apparently selling foodstuffs on the second floor of a warehouse without a permit isn’t totally kosher with the City of San Francisco, so the market has been shut down on more than one occasion.

Scene from SF Underground Farmers Market

At the end of the day, the point isn’t about whether or not these underground farmers markets are successful. What is important is that more and more people are stepping up to the challenge of trying to feed communities by growing/making within the confines of their back yards, tiny farms, and apartment kitchens.  What I find even more significant is the fact that the public is increasingly aware of, and interested in, the smaller producers.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of uber-small producers being responsible for what ends up on your table? And do you know of any more underground farmers markets?

Photos courtesy of NatalieMaynor / kattebelletje / nautical2k /Creative Commons

Tags: farmers market, London, San Francisco

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