20 Women-Led Food Businesses You Should Know | CUESA

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March 08, 2019

20 Women-Led Food Businesses You Should Know

It’s International Women’s Day today, but do we really need an excuse to celebrate women and the vital role they play in our food system? Women produce more than half of our food worldwide. From the fields to the kitchen, women are leading the movement for healthy and sustainable food.

While by no means a definitive list, these 20 visionary women entrepreneurs are making our food more delicious, healthful, and soulful, each in her own way. You can find them in CUESA’s farmers markets year-round, rain or shine. Support women-led businesses!

Mariko Grady, Aedan Fermented (pictured above)

Following the 2011 earthquake in her home country of Japan, Mariko Grady (pictured center) started selling her homemade miso to friends to raise money for the victims. Through Aedan Fermented, she now brings the traditions of healthy and flavorful Japanese cuisine to the table with fermented foods such as miso, koji, and amazake. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Jen Musty, Batter Bakery

Jen Musty, a lifelong baker, made the leap from accounting to catering in 2006, offering good old-fashioned baked treats with a modern twist, and an emphasis on premium farmers market ingredients. With accolades from the Food Network, she now has a couple shops in San Francisco in addition to her farmers market stand. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Binita Pradhan, Bini’s Kitchen

An immigrant from Kathmandu and a participant in La Cocina’s food business incubator program, Binita Pradhan (pictured at the beginning of this article) prides herself in being the only Nepalese caterer in San Francisco. You can try Bini’s momos (Nepalese dumplings) with home-ground spices at the Saturday market or at her kiosk on Market Street. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. (Photos: Amanda Lynn Photography)

Vanessa Chavez, Cholita Linda

Vanessa Chavez started Cholita Linda at the Jack London Square Farmers Market in Oakland, offering freshly made Baja fish and carnitas tacos and agua frescas. She now owns the wildly popular Temescal brick-and-mortar of the same name, but you can still enjoy her tacos at the waterfront farmers market. Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market. (Photo: Cholita Linda)

Tina McKnight, Dot’s Baking Pantry

A Jack London Square Farmers Market institution with a loyal following, Tina McKnight conjures sweet memories with her Southern desserts such as pies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, cookies, muffins, peach cobbler, and other treats. Her red velvet cupcakes are not to miss. Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market. (Photo: Peter DaDilva, San Francisco Chronicle)

Kendra Kolling, The Farmer’s Wife

Kendra Kolling is married to the apple farmer behind Nana Mae’s Organics, but her farm-fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads are creations all her own. Her decadent grilled-cheese sandwiches have won numerous accolades, both at local fairs and nationwide. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Wendy Towner, Honey Ladies

Beekeeper Wendy Towner’s motto is: “Saving the World One Honeybee at a Time.” Her full-service apiary rescues honeybees from residences and businesses in Los Gatos and gives them new, safe homes. She sells their raw, 100% pure, Grade A honey at farmers markets, so she can continue saving the honeybees. Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market. (Photo: The Honey Ladies)

June Taylor, June Taylor Company

Born in London, June started her handcrafted preserves company in Berkeley in 1992, with an unshakable dedication to traditional technique and sourcing peak-season fruit, herbs, and flowers from local farms and backyards. Her small (three people, to be exact) but mighty business has gotten national attention as a pioneer of the artisan food revival. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. (Photo: Ana Valdes)

Carolina and Rosa Oliva, La Oaxaqueña

La Oaxaqueña offers regional Mexican cooking from the southern state of Oaxaca, with made-from-scratch tamales in mole poblano, pupusas, and other traditional specialties like pozole. Their philosophy is that “food is our first medicine,” and the mother-daughter duo cook with the recipes of their ancestors to serve the community and find their roots through food. Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market. (Photo: La Oaxaqueña)

Yeyen Gunawan, La Vie Wellness

Since 1995, yoga enthusiast Yeyen Gunawan has been crafting probiotic juices, wellness beverages, and superfood snacks as La Vie. For a healthy morning pick-me-up, stop by her stand for kvass, kefirs, pure coconut water, green smoothies, or sprouted almond milks. Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market. (Photo: La Vie Wellness)

Gail Lillian, Liba

After growing the popular Liba Falafel in Oakland, Gail launched Liba to “reinvent the salad bar” at the farmers market, using fresh, seasonal ingredients and taking global inspiration. With greens, grains, and optional meat, her bowls and wraps offer a fresh and filling option for the Thursday lunchtime crowd. Thursdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Olivia Mecalco, Mi Comedor

A participant of La Cocina’s incubator program, Mi Comedor owner Olivia Mecalco makes antojitos inspired by her grandmother’s cooking and her memories of Mexico City, including sopes, huaraches, pambazos, tacos, tortas, and other street food favorites. Don’t miss her made-from-scratch quesadillas! Tuesdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Guadalupe Moreno, Mi Morena

A participant in La Cocina, Guadalupe Moreno started Mi Morena, a tacos de guisado business, to offer San Francisco diners traditional tacos with quality ingredients and handmade tortillas, including chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian options. “De guisado” refers to the homemade stewed fillings, and her dishes are rooted in the cuisine of her home of Mexico City. Thursdays, Mission Community Market. (Photo: Tory Putnam)

Karen Taylor & Team, Primavera

If you’ve savored Primavera’s popular chilaquiles, you have Karen Taylor and her amazing mostly female staff, all of whom are Latino immigrants, to thank. (And if you haven’t, add those chilaquiles to your bucket list.) From tortillas to salsas, all of Primavera’s products are made by hand, using local and organic ingredients when possible, at their Sonoma County kitchen and restaurant, El Molino Central. Karen was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Kimberly Gonzales, Nahua Pizza

In partnership with her uncle Carlos, Kimberly Gonzalez of Nahua Pizza makes handcrafted, hot-from-the-wood-fired-oven pizzas featuring classic and seasonal toppings. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Michelle Pusateri, Nana Joe’s Granola

Former pastry chef and outdoor enthusiast Michelle (pictured at left, with farmer Mollie Sitkin of Old Dog Ranch) started making granola when she became fed up with blends that were stale, processed, and loaded with sugar. She makes a healthier, gluten-free granola using fresh ingredients sourced from local and sustainable farms, and pure maple syrup as the only sweetener. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Reem Assil, Reem’s

After years as a community and labor organizer, Reem was inspired to start her own Arab street food bakery after visiting her parents’ homelands in the Middle East. Today, she builds community around her handmade mana’eesh (a soft, pizza-like flatbread stuffed with fresh ingredients) at two nationally recognized brick-and-mortar restaurants in Oakland and farmers market stands. It’s no wonder she was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market.

Lenore Estrada, Three Babes Bakeshop

Growing up in the Central Valley, Lenore and her friend Anna baked pies to give away to their friends. Years later, they started a pie-making business together with the goal of supporting local farms (Anna has since left the business). Three Babes’ offerings change seasonally, and all pie crusts are rolled by hand, a labor-intensive process. Their apple pie has been named among the best in America by Food & Wine. Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Aruna Lee, Volcano Kimchi

Inspired by her childhood growing up in Buddhist temples in South Korea, Aruna Lee offers vegan and organic kimchi handcrafted in San Francisco. Her signature product is Napa Cabbage and Jicama Kimchi, while seasonal ferments include products like Super Spicy Habanero Persimmon Kimchi, Oyster Kimchi, and Jicama Kimchi Salsa.  Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Mary Risavi, Wise Goat Organics

After years slinging produce for Heirloom Organic Gardens farm, Mary Risavi now brings her passion for local produce and nutrition back to farmers market with Wise Goat Organics, a one-woman kraut business based in San Juan Bautista. Try Wise Goat’s carefully made, hyper-local ferments, which range from the classic to experimental.  Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. (Photo: Wise Goat Organics)

The article was updated from a previously published piece.

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »