GODMOTHER OF CALIFORNIA FARMERS’ MARKETS
Jan 14, 2017 12:48PM
By Fran Miller
If the advent and proliferation of California’s farmers’ markets can be traced to one person, that person is Gail Hayden. The Walnut Creek native worked with Governor Jerry Brown nearly forty years ago on the implementation of the first farmers’ market model — a conservation measure during the 1977 energy crisis — and she’s been at the forefront of the movement ever since.
A 1978 graduate of UC Davis with a degree in agricultural economics, and a masters in food marketing from Sacramento State, Hayden was tapped in the late 70’s by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to oversee the Bureau of Marketing. There she reviewed the state’s first organic legislation and helped grow the farmers’ market system from 12 to 170 markets statewide. Today, as Director of California Farmers Markets Association (CFMA), Hayden operates 14 farmers’ markets across the Bay Area from San Jose, Daly City, Mountain View and San Leandro to Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Walnut Creek, Moraga and San Francisco — serving 26,000 Bay Area households. Morgan Hill, with more than 70 stalls, has consistently been ranked as one of the best in the nation.
“Gail has shaped a new way for thousands of families to eat fresh, healthy produce,” says Barbara Ambler-Thomas, former CFMA Director of Marketing. “And, she has supported hundreds of family farmers by giving them viable outlets to sell their homegrown fruits and vegetables.” Hayden’s institutional knowledge of the agriculture business and market processes makes her a sought-after guest speaker at international conferences. Having overseen the opening of 40 markets, she knows the economics and dynamics of successful operations and regularly advises on state, county, and city legislation, fruit/vegetable standards, as well as merchandising and sales workshops for her 280 farmer partners and 100 purveyors. “Gail has changed the face of farmers’ markets with her innovative, community spirit,” says Gail Boyar, Director of Hawaii’s Farm Lovers Farmer’s Market. “She has dedicated her career to the betterment of farmers nationally as a leader in agriculture.”
Hayden’s CFMA staff of 26 energetic and passionate employees, including husband Doug (who left a career at PG&E to join the team) and daughter Kayla, are known for operating vibrant markets with top quality fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, fresh fish, flowers, eggs, local honey, and gourmet artisan food specialties. CFMA also hosts annual fruit festivals and tasting events, cooking and gardening demos, and children’s programs that turn finicky eaters into veggie lovers. “Parents often tell us, ‘Oh, my kid won’t eat spinach or kale,’ but we know otherwise!” laughs Hayden.