What brings Yonki and Yuk Hamada to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market every Saturday typifies what the whole farmers' market movement is about -- giving urban consumers a chance to buy fresh, field ripen produce -- the type of produce grocery store chains can't cope with due to a short shelf life and need for careful handling of such produce.
Commercial Grower Takes on the Farmers'
For most of his life, Yuk Hamada had been a commercial grower of nectarines and grapes (table and wine), operating a 240 acres farm. Actually, his father had been farming since 1908, but as an "oriental", he was not permitted by California law to own the land until the mid-1940's when that law was repealed.
As a commercial grower following in his fathers footsteps, Yuk sold his fruit to a packing house that would wash and sort his fruit, grade it for size and pack it into boxes for sale to wholesalers. The packing house would throw away fruit that was already beginning to ripen because the softer fruit would not survive the 4-8 days it typically takes to get it from wholesalers to stores and then into consumers' refrigerators. By then, the ripening fruit would be spoiled.
To Yonki, Yuk's wife, it became unbearable to see their tree-ripened fruit being thrown away by the packing houses. She heard about the burgeoning farmers' markets and encouraged Yuk to try selling their ripe fruit at these markets. That was more than seven years ago. Now Yuk and Yonki themselves are weekly regulars at three farmers' markets around the Bay Area and their children cover several other farmers' markets closer to Kingsburg, just south of Fresno, where they have their orchards.
Diversifying to Meet Customer Tastes
When Yuk and Yonki first started selling at farmers' markets about seven years ago, they brought only ripe nectarines from their commercial growing operations. While at the farmers' markets, Yuk began to observe what varieties of fruits from other growers the typical farmers' market customers really prefer and he began to plant those varieties himself on a small scale. He found that 20-50 trees of each new variety was enough to satisfy customer demand at the farmers' market. So each year, he plants 10-15 varieties, just for his farmers' market customers. Meanwhile, he semi-retired from the commercial growing operations and handed that part of the business over to his sons.
The Hamada's Weekly Farmer's Market Beat
Yuk and Yonki leave Kingsburg on Thursday night for the 240-mile drive to St. Helena. Their refrigerated mini-truck is packed with enough fruit to sell at three farmers' markets over the next three days -- Friday in St. Helena, Saturday at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza and Sunday in Walnut Creek -- before driving back to Kingsburg Sunday night. This is what they have chosen to do in their semi-retirement!
When and When to Find Them
Hamada's don't have a permanent location at the SFFPM. For now, you'll find them just opposite the southern entrance. But in a few weeks, they be moving to the east side.
The Hamada's Market schedule
|Starts May 1||Cherries (Tularie, King, Brooks)|
|Mid-May through August||Apricots (Earlicots, Castle Bright)
Peaches (Spring Crest, Sugar May and many white-flesh varieties)
Nectarines (Rose Diamond, Diamond Bright, Spring Bright, Ruby Diamond, Summer Bright, Summer Blush, August Red)
Apriums (cross between an apricot and plum with more than 50% of apricot)
Plumcots and Plucots (cross between a plum and an apricot with more than 50% of plum)
|August - November||Grapes (Thompson, Flame, Crimson Seedless, Muscat)
Raisins (Thompson and Flame)
|November - December||Citrus (Pummelos, several varieties of grapefruit, Meyers lemons, Satsuma Mandarins)|
|January - April||Not at the Market|
Yuk describes himself and his wife as "quiet and private people who simply enjoy working the soil". To understand their drive to deliver ripe fruit to us, you must read Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, a lovely book by David Mas Masumoto about his Sun Crest peaches.
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