mission community market

A Sweet Addition to MCM

Posted on by Mission Community Market in Blog, La Cocina, Sugarfoot Grits, Vendor of the Week | 1 Comment

A woman hangs out of a window, leaning over the edge to serve grits. On the other side of the window, the grits are cooked in small batches, with lots of cream, cheese, and hot sauce.

That’s the vision that Stephanie Fields had before she started Sugarfoot Grits. A southerner passionate about food, Fields came to Sugarfoot Grits with her favorite food and a great nickname. “Sugarfoot is a family nickname,” Fields says. “My uncle called me Sugarfoot when I worked in his restaurant. He gave me a lot of love.”

"Sugarfoot is a family nickname.

“Sugarfoot is a family nickname. My uncle called me Sugarfoot when I worked in his restaurant. He gave me a lot of love.”

But before Fields was dreaming of corn, she was a long-time Mission Mercado shopper. The southern-style greens that she serves alongside her bowls of grits come from Blue House Farms, and she supports many farmers by stocking her personal kitchen with their produce. Now, Fields is taking on a new position at MCM––one behind the vendor table.

Sugarfoot Grits initially expressed interest in selling at MCM in 2013, before Fields was accepted to La Cocina program and expanded her business. “I wasn’t ready then,” Fields says. “But Emily [MCM’s market manager] kept up with me and now, I’m ready.”

La Cocina is a San Francisco initiative based in the Mission District that works to give low-income women the tools that they need for success in the food industry.

To Fields, the support that came from La Cocina meant everything for her business. “I had decided that I was going to do the business no matter what,” Fields says. “But in retrospect, I’m not sure that I could have done it without [La Cocina’s] help.” And the training that La Cocina gave behind the tent didn’t stop after Fields brought Sugarfoot Grits to market. “It’s about the general day to day support,” says Fields. “During my first outdoor festival they came and stood with me for my health inspection. Health inspections are scary––it’s like Mary Poppins checking the dust under everything,” she says, laughing. “It sounds boring, but that support means a lot.”

“I had decided that I was going to do the business no matter what. But in retrospect, I’m not sure that I could have done it without [La Cocina’s] help.”

La Cocina also supported Fields through a “night market,” which was the first market that Fields had ever done. “We had a line of 20 people at all times,” she says. “It was crazy.”

But all of her work with La Cocina, as well as the plethora of pop-ups that she has done over the years, has armed Fields with the tools she needs to run a successful business––and the flavors she needs to make her grits delicious. Fields cooks her grits in small batches on-site, which means that each bowl is fresh and hot. The on-site cooking also serves as a demonstration for customers. “It makes it more interesting,” says Fields.

Fields’ corn grits are organic, and cooked with cream and cheese sourced locally. Fields tops the grits with more cheese, and southern-style greens, braised in apple-cider vinegar and with lots of added mushrooms. “I try to make it more vegetarian friendly,” Fields says. The mushrooms add savory-flavor to the grits and make them more hearty. But Fields’ grits aren’t only for vegetarians––she has pulled-pork, too, and plans on bringing chicken and dumplings to the market in future weeks. Other menu plans include sweet potato pies and a tomato-based soup with beef, lima beans, and corn.

Perhaps the flavors in her grits are welcoming because they don’t come from a traditional kitchen. “I have no culinary training,” Fields says, “I started cooking for myself for real after college.” During that time, Fields says that she was “cooking lots and lots of vegetables and couscous.”

“I learned about food then,” Fields notes. Then, in 2012, grits became her signature dish. “Grits are my favorite food,” she says. “I started bringing cheese grits to parties, and I started having pop-ups.”

Fields’ food is more than a warm bowl––to her, grits are a connection to her home and family. “I cooked grits growing up,” she says. “I’m from North Carolina, and [the grits] connect me to my family and cultural lineage. The South has a rich but difficult history. This is a positive way to connect with people.” And, Fields notes, laughing “In San Francisco, being from the South makes me special.”

“I’m from North Carolina, and [the grits] connect me to my family and cultural lineage. The South has a rich but difficult history. This is a positive way to connect with people.”

Now, Fields has a chance to bring her favorite food to a new audience. “I spend most of my time in the Mission District,” she says, “and I’m just glad to be in the neighborhood.” And so far, that audience has welcomed Sugarfoot Grits with open arms. “I had one lady who was really sweet, who said ‘welcome to the neighborhood,’” Fields says. “That made my day.”

Youth Surveyors Making Sure Mission Community Is Heard

Posted on by Mission Community Market in Blog, Mercado Plaza | 1 Comment

Community is more than just part of Mission Community Market’s name. And right now, the organization is making sure that the community is heard. A new survey project, funded by the San Francisco Foundation’s Great Communities Collaborative and organized by MCM in partnership with MEDA seeks to include the perspective of Mission residents in programming for the future Mercado Plaza, to be built on Bartlett Street between 21st and 22nd Streets. With the plaza, MCM hopes to transform the space into a flexible, family-friendly area with overhead protection and permanent lighting fixtures that will help to brighten the street and make it safer. Located at what is, in many ways, the crossroads of the Mission District, MCM’s survey can serve another purpose too––engaging a historic Latin@ population that traditionally doesn’t participate in City-led community workshops.

The survey project is focusing on getting feedback for future programming options at the Mercado Plaza, currently slated to be completed in the Spring of 2015. And the survey is intended for “those who live, work or go to school starting in (1) a 2-3 block radius around the future Mercado Plaza site and (2) historical Mission residents who usually don’t participate in other community feedback opportunities,” said Rosi Bustamante, executive director of MCM.  Focusing on both of these populations is important — on one side the Plaza site is an affordable housing project and parking garage, and on the other a future mixed-use, condominium project.  Seeking feedback from diverse sides will ensure Plaza programming will meet the needs of the community.

The local youth that MCM has hired to implement the surveys might hold the key to engaging all parts of the Mission District and ensuring that the Mercado Plaza is a space that benefits all. “We wanted to provide job and training opportunities to local youth, which is why we hired our surveyors,“ said Bustamante. Six bilingual, youth surveyors were hired, and MCM hopes that with the addition of these surveyors, they can include the voices of those in the community that are hardest to reach.

“We wanted to provide job and training opportunities to local youth, which is why we hired our surveyors.”

Before they hit the streets, however, the surveyors sat in on a two week training organized by MCM and MEDA. The training centered around teaching the youth about the Mercado Plaza project, what kind of questions to expect from those surveyed, and how to approach community members for surveying. “The training was cool,” said Giovanni Carreño, one of the six surveyors. “I learned how to approach people. I learned how to not take no for an answer––but not in a rude way.”

From left to right: Daniel Cortes, Giovanni Carreño, Daniel Mendoza, Ivan Castro. Not pictured: Nathaly De Leon, Susy Rojas.

From left to right: Daniel Cortes, Giovanni Carreño, Daniel Mendoza, Ivan Castro. Not pictured: Nathaly De Leon, Susy Rojas.

MCM hopes that the youth surveyors can help to get the community involved and excited about the Mercado Plaza, as well as answer any questions that they might have. So far, said Carreño, the surveyors have had some mixed reactions––especially about the length of the survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete. “A lot of people ask, is there any way to make it shorter?” he said, laughing. “But when someone starts asking questions,” he continued, “you know that they’re interested.”

The survey, which is multiple-choice and hosted on tablets used by each of the surveyors, was created by Angela Gallegos-Castillo with feedback from MCM advisory board members. Gallegos-Castillo conducted two focus groups, one at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School food bank and another at The Women’s Building preschool “to get a better sense of what kinds of options to provide for the multiple choice questions,” Bustamante said. Those options include questions about what kind of programming Mission residents would like to see at the Mercado Plaza. “For example,” Bustamante said, “do they want to see more markets, cultural events, play streets? Classes, family activities, concerts?”

Mercado Plaza - Courtesy of Rebar

The anticipated design for The Mercado Plaza, opening March 2015.

The anticipated date to open the Mercado Plaza is March 2015. MCM describes the Plaza, which is being built by the City of San Francisco, as “a new public space [which will] provide a beautiful, safe and much needed open space in the heart of the Mission for a wide variety of community programs that support family health, promote small businesses, create new local art and bring diverse communities together.”

Last week, the survey team joined the market for the first time. “Two of us are here,” said Carreño, “and three more are going to houses in a two-block radius of the market.” The team will continue the survey process for about three more weeks, and hopes to administer at least 200 surveys in that time. “We needed to define a number that was attainable within our time and number of youth,” Bustamante said. And the team is hopeful. “I’d like to reach––or even exceed––the quota,” Carreño said.

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Nathaly De Leon conducts a survey at the Mission Community Market

Carreño agreed that some residents see Bartlett as a border between two populations. But he thinks that the Mercado Plaza will aid all. “The main goal is to bring more lighting,” to make it safer, he said. “They’re trying to make the street more family-oriented.”

“They’re trying to make the street more family-oriented.”

Not all that he has surveyed see it that way. “Yesterday,” said Carreño, “was the first day [of surveying]. At the first house [the resident] said he didn’t have time to take the survey but kept offering suggestions, including removing the neighboring affordable housing. It’s not all that motivating to meet people like that.”

But when I asked him whether others have been motivating, Carreño lit up. “Yes, yes. I’ve met so many motivating people,” Carreño said. He described surveying Jennifer Kindell, a vendor at the market. “She’s really passionate,” he said, “on the survey, she kept picking ‘other’ because she wanted to write what she thought.”

And for Carreño, the surveys are a chance to get in touch with the Mission District. “I want to know what people think,” he said. “I like learning about people.” When I asked him more about his surveying technique, Carreño admitted that he didn’t like to stick to the questions. “I try to just get an opinion,” he said. “I let them talk. You learn so much from people. Today [while surveying] I met a Peruvian lady at the laundromat, and she taught me about Machu Picchu. It takes a 5 hour train ride and 1 hour bus ride to get there!” said Carreño.

“I want to know what people think. I like learning about people.”

Perhaps the trick to getting responses from all of the residents of the Mission District is to think like Carreño. “A lot of Latin@s are interested in the project,” he said,” and “when I think of the Mission I think of Latin@s.”

The survey project offers a unique opportunity for MCM to connect with all residents of the Mission––and for those residents to influence the future of the district. And with their ability to connect with Mission residents from all walks of life, perhaps the youth surveyors, working in the heart of the Mission, are truly at the heart of it all.

A Happy Farm Makes Happy Produce: Farm Profile Featuring Happy Boy Farms

Posted on by Mission Community Market in Blog, Happy Boy Farms, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

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Happy Boy Farms returned to Mission Community Market two weeks ago, bringing their bags of lettuce, buckets of tomatoes, and fresh stance on organic produce with them. The farm is remarkable because of its variety––in the summertime, Happy Boy sells from over 200 acres worth of production. These acres vary in climate and geography; because the farm grows on multiple fields in multiple counties, some of Happy Boy’s fields are hot and dry, while others get coastal breezes even in the summertime. The result is a a varied landscape for produce.

Drivers at Happy Boy's MCM stall.

Staff at Happy Boy’s MCM stall.

Working for the farm means variation, too. Iva, a driver with Happy Boy, tells me that drivers “play with a lot of different skill-sets,” including interacting with customers, handling produce, navigating markets, and driving long distances. Happy Boy’s drivers start their journeys from the farms packing sheds, where Happy Boy houses seedlings. Before the drivers even arrive at a market, they start out by checking in on the farm’s teeny plants. That initial interaction fosters an intimate relationship between the drivers and Happy Boy’s crops, beneficial for shoppers browsing at Happy Boy’s stalls.

At their MCM stall, the mounds of tomatoes crowding their front tables are framed by the bunches of herbs and barrels of greens behind them. The stall hosts zucchinis, summer squashes, and bagged salad. A few customers in line are clutching finger-fulls of carrots, and some other are cradling bags of Happy Boy’s heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the vegetables, basil and fennel leaves are fanned out on Happy Boy’s tables. While most are likely familiar with basil, fennel’s bulbous white bottom and sprawling top is alien to many shoppers. Fennel has a taste similar to licorice and anise, though it is described as sweeter.

“I’m a really big fennel fan,” Iva tells me. “I feel like every year I work farmer’s markets people get more and more excited about fennel.” Iva suggests getting the most out of fennel by using the stems in pesto. Other recipe suggestions include caramelizing fennel in a salad, baking it with fish, or incorporating the seeds into biscuits.

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During the summertime, Happy Boy has San Marzano, Earl Girl, cherry, and heirloom tomatoes. Iva’s favorites are the purple heirlooms, which she suggests slicing and placing on top of a cooked dish, dicing for salsa, or eating them on their own for a snack. Earlygirl tomatoes are often prepared with mozzarella and basil, and San Marzanos make excellent sauces.

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After customers have come and picked through Happy Boy’s stalls, the farm donates all of its leftover produce. “Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed,” Iva says.

“Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed.”

At MCM, Iva notes, Happy Boy’s customers are variable. And though everyone living in The Mission District is aware of the changes the area has been going through, Iva says that she believes the market has stayed true to the heart and culture of the Mission. “I love the mission,” she says, “and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community. I like the size of it; it feels like people are wandering through.”

“I love the mission, and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community.”

“I love being outside, I love interacting with people––I love people who come from outside California who are surprised by whats possible,” Iva says. “One of the best things is when people are excited when new things come in.”

Share the [Common]wealth!

Posted on by Mission Community Market in Blog | Leave a comment

Dine out for a cause this month! We’re excited to announce that for the third year in a row, MCM has been chosen by local restaurant Commonwealth as one of their non-profit beneficiaries.


Throughout the month of April 2014, Commonwealth restaurant will be donating $10 to the Mission Community Market for the sale of each tasting menu purchased. Commonwealth is a Progressive American restaurant located in the Mission at 2224 Mission Street (cross-street is 18th). Every month they choose a local beneficiary, and so far, they have raised over $222,000 for local non-profits! Bravo!

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We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Commonwealth for all their support, and to all the diners whose tasting menu purchases will benefit MCM. Make a reservation today to support MCM and the benevolent business model at Commonwealth!

MCM Vendor and Volunteer Appreciation Party

Posted on by Mission Community Market in Blog, Interns, Vendors, Volunteers | Leave a comment

This past Sunday, MCM threw a little bash at a.Muse Gallery in honor of our hard-working vendors and volunteers who make Mission Community Market happen every week! Here are some photos of the special night!

We were thrilled that so many local businesses were willing to generously donate to help make this event a success! We’d like to thank and recognize all of our event sponsors, including the following amazing folks!

Food was provided by:

Lolinda Restaurant | Wise Sons Deli | Azalina’s Malaysian | Roli Roti | Flour Chylde | Mission Cheese | Tacolicious | Arizmendi Bakery | Sour Flour | La Victoria Panaderia | Three Babes Bakeshop | Trader Joe’s | Pretzel Crisps

Beverages were provided by:

Almanac Beer | Lagunitas Brewing Company | Cole Hardware | Onigilly | Purity Organic | Bluxome Street Winery

Decorations were provided by:

Casa Bonampak

We’d also like to extend our deepest gratitude to Lori of a.Muse Gallery for offering her space for this party and helping make it a success – for anyone looking for a great event space, definitely check out a.Muse located at 18th and Alabama in the Mission.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to our amazing vendors and volunteers for helping make the market awesome each and every week!