The Southeast Community Center on Evans Avenue is a sprawling building on San Francisco’s east side. It’s right on the border of Mission Bay, Dogpatch, Hunter’s Point, and the Bayview and opened in October 2022 with the intent to bring dynamism and accessibility to the area; there are swinging chairs, grilling stations, and slides where kids can play. Its newest champion Isaiah Powell, a gardening and food justice pioneer, wants to leverage the space to serve fresh produce and sourdough bread as a means of reclaiming resources in a city that redlined and poisoned many of its east-side residents. “The Bayview is a great, sunny place in San Francisco,” Powell says. “We want to turn it from a food desert into an oasis of abundance.”
Now, Dragonspunk — a food justice nonprofit Powell runs with his partner Danielle Calibird — will run the city’s newest farmers market each Thursday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. at 1550 Evans Avenue beginning on June 1. The 15 debut vendors include a slew of fellow Black-owned businesses including bread phenom Rize Up Bakery, Bayview-born-and-raised Mossed Juicery, and East Bay caffeine stars Soul Blends Coffee. Other vendors onboard so far include plant-based pastry-maker Raydiant Vybes, fruit suppliers Medina Berry Farms, and farmers market wunderkind David Upchurch Chocolates. Powell is taking applications for more vendors but wanted to get the project rolling in the meantime. Young people from Enterprise for Youth will be on-site as volunteers, too, creating social media materials Powell hopes resonate with San Franciscans. “We’re creating a vibe,” Powell says. “It’s a farmers market, but it will be curated like a party.”
This farmers market is well-supported by the city stakeholders, too. San Francisco Recreation and Parks are partners, as are Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates who will also pop-up as vendors. Powell and Dontaye Ball of Bayview’s Gumbo Social linked up, too, but Powell says Ball is a bit too busy opening the first permanent location of his business to take on another farmers market. “The costs for people who cook on-site are so prohibitive that small-scale producers can barely do it,” Powell says. “And it’s unnecessarily bureaucratic to get certified.” To that point, Powell says District Supervisor Shamann Walton’s office was helpful in pointing him and new vendors to COVID recovery program First Year Free, which was a major boon in getting the market started.
This project is just the latest in Dragonspunk’s dogged food justice spree. In 2021, Powell was approached by the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) after a Chronicle piece detailed his work at his Bayview farm Dragonspunk. His talents lie in microgreen cultivation, and he says the city and farmers markets broadly approached him in an attempt to diversify their agricultural projects. Powell points out that Black people were brought to the country for agricultural labor but were then divested of that land violently and systematically.
Since then he’s led microgreen workshops with James Beard Award-winning chef David Yoshimura of Nisei, taught kids throughout San Francisco Unified School District how to grow their own food, and met Senator Cory Booker to discuss food waste. All those efforts nabbed the attention of international campaign for justice Black Lives Matter, who gave Powell a shoutout on its Instagram for Dragonspunk’s classes on food sovereignty. “No vague platitudes about reparations,” Powell says. “Let’s get down to brass tacks. Let’s make it easy to open in the Bayview.”
Dragonspunk’s farmers market opens at 1550 Evans Avenue on Thursday, June 1 and will run from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.