Food & Drink: Keeping the dream alive

Brigitte Moran on 'the world's most visionary farmers' market'

by Tanya Henry

“Dreamers need to stick together,” says Brigitte Moran, borrowing a quote from Disney’s newly released sci-fi fantasy film Tomorrowland. For more than 10 years, Moran, executive director of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), has been working tirelessly to bring a proposed 30,000 square-foot enclosed market hall and pavilion to Marin’s Civic Center.

The longtime San Rafael resident, who moved to the county from France’s Brittany region when she was just 5 years old, seems well-suited for the job that she describes as “setting up malls every week around the Bay Area.” Prior to running the Smith Ranch Road-based 500-member nonprofit, Moran owned and operated a large-scale events production company. In 1989, she started the Downtown San Rafael Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Thursday evenings, April through September, on Fourth Street. It wasn’t long before she was asked to run the market, and today she oversees seven farmers’ markets in the Bay Area and manages a staff of 23 employees.

“We try to match markets to farmers; there is a skill to it,” explains Moran, who cites both educating consumers about eating locally grown, healthy food and helping farmers and specialty food producers get their products to their communities as two of AIM’s main goals.

Another goal that the organization hopes to achieve is to provide a permanent home for Marin’s Civic Center Farmers’ Market. What began as a Thursday morning market in 1983 has expanded exponentially over the years, and now includes more than 200 vendors who serve thousands of folks two days a week, year-round. Board members of AIM contend that their ambitious plan—or as they have dubbed it, “the world’s most visionary farmers’ market”—will not only assure access to healthy, fresh food, but also demonstrate a strong commitment to local agriculture in the county.

In June of 2014, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure B (by 81.5 percent), which gave permission for AIM to build their proposed structure for the market on the Marin Civic Center campus.

With strong public support, the group is now working hard to raise the projected $23 million that the project will cost to complete. Along with meeting the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy criteria of maintaining a design that respects the existing historic building, Moran says that they are in the final stages of land lease negotiations with the county.

“We are transparent with our food; we want to be transparent with our building,” adds Moran, who shows no sign of losing momentum in keeping the dream alive. She hopes to break ground in the fall of 2016.

Share your hunger pains with Tanya at [email protected]

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