Brigitte Moran, CEO of Agricultural Institute of Marin
400 Smith Ranch Road
San Rafael, CA 94903
Biography and Photos by Ben Davidson:
Among Marin County’s many natural bounties are its wonderful farmers’ markets. These vibrant, bustling community celebrations of fresh produce and specialty food abound with a dazzling array of goods from a wide variety of producers from Marin and around the state. Marinites and visitors are passionate about these markets and numerous chefs from Marin and neighboring counties shop the markets weekly for the very best produce for their restaurants’ culinary creations.
The grand dame of Marin’s farmers’ markets is the twice-weekly San Rafael Civic Center market, which over 33 years has grown to become the third largest market in the state. Growers from 38 California counties showcase their fresh produce, with some 250 vendors showing up on Sundays and about 100-150 on Thursdays, depending on the season.
The woman at the helm of this large and complex enterprise is Brigitte Moran, the down-to-earth CEO and Executive Director of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) and its sister organization, Marin Farmers Markets. Moran has over 20 years experience overseeing farmers’ markets, having started the downtown San Rafael Farmers Market on 4th Street in 1989.
“For me personally,” says Moran, “when I go to the store it’s more of a chore. When I come to the (farmers’) market, it’s a happening. It’s a place where I come and enjoy my community, eat great food and people-watch, and get to know my farmer.”
The markets provides local farmers (60% of whom sell organic produce), specialty food purveyors, and artisans direct access to more than 15,000 people a week, providing a critical venue for the survival of local family farms, ranches and small business while simultaneously educating about our food system and connecting communities to local, sustainable agriculture. “We educate the public about what is happening to our food. We want consumers to know the right questions to ask about the food they put in their body.”
Moran’s vision for the market includes an ongoing effort to build a $20 million Farmers Market Pavilion and Market Canopy. This permanent structure will celebrate the county’s agricultural roots by providing a year-round home to this well-established market and will provide more direct marketing opportunities to the next generation of farmers. In addition, Moran wants to increase the number of Marin residents who currently shop the market to about 10% of the population. “The community has been very supportive of the farmers who grow their produce in West Marin,” she says.
Marin Farmers Markets are held at the Marin County Civic Center (Thursdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., year-round), on Novato’s Grant Avenue (Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., May to September) and in Fairfax’s Bolinas Park (Wednesdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., May to September).