The market was started in 1992 by the Ocean Beach Main Street Association. “It was to help bring people into the area, help local merchants and help bring the community together at the same time,” said the association’s executive director Denny Knox. “It took a little while for it to establish itself, but it’s now a self-sustaining event. We have up to 2,500 visitors each week, with substantially more if it’s a warm sunny day.”
The event now draws up to 120 vendors a week.
On May 17, the OB Farmer’s Market will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the giveaway of a free recyclable vegetables bag, as well as a proclamation from Councilmember Lori Zapf.
“We’ve had great success at the market,” Knox said. “We try to emphasize local vendors, whether it’s fresh produce, prepared foods or crafts. In fact, several popular vendors who got their start there have expanded into shops and businesses, including The Noon Design Shop, which has jewelry, cards and so on, and Mad Munch Grilled Cheezer Co., which has wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches.”
Perhaps the market’s signature element is its music, which can range from acoustic troubadours to full ensembles. Taking place between 4 to 7 p.m. right on the street at Bacon and Newport, this coveted gig features both local and national newcomers as well as established local heroes, with artists such as Joey Harris, Enter Blue Sky and Jeffrey Bloom having performed.
“In a way there had always been music at the market. There were the usual buskers and random street musicians, but music as a focus was first brought to the Farmer’s Market by Chuck Schiele in 2002,” Knox said.
Schiele ran it for nine years, before handing over duties to guitarist Michael Head, best known for his work with the band, The Country Rockin’ Rebels. Schiele considers music and this event to be synonymous.
“Ocean Beach is the most music-centric neighborhood that I know of,” Head said. “Now a lot of people go to the farmers market, pretty much for the music. Well, some go for the veggies. Both are good for you,” he laughed.
“It feels good to know that music has become such an important part of the farmers market,” Head commented. “We’re at the point now where national touring bands want to take part. Beyond being a great way to take care of some weekly shopping, it’s a great way to get your music heard by a potentially large crowd that appreciates it, a win-win for everybody.”
For Knox the appeal of the OB Farmers Market is obvious and multi-leveled. “The music really is fun,” she said. “But also it has a very local vibe, we’re very fortunate to have a location right at the beach,” Knox continued. “ I don’t think there are a lot of farmers markets where you can just stroll down to the water, watch the sunset and then go back and finish your shopping.”
Schiele notes the importance of community through this event. “The best thing about the OBFM is that while it looks like it’s about veggies and music, the locals see it as a way to get to know their neighbors,” he said. “We see it as our Wednesday get-together.”