CUESA Behind the Mask: Tommy Phung | CUESA

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market »

OPEN! Sat 8am–2pm | Tue & Thu 10am–2pm

Mission Community Market »

OPEN! Thu 3pm–7pm

July 16, 2020

CUESA Behind the Mask: Tommy Phung

In these times of social distancing, we would love for you to get to know our team better. Each week, we’re going to take you “behind the mask” with a different CUESA staff member, so that, even when our faces are covered, we won’t be strangers at the farmers market. This week, meet Assistant Operations Manager Tommy Phung. 


Tell us a bit about you and your role and history at CUESA.

I’m a San Francisco native and have been living here all my life, which I don’t think is going to change any time soon. I’ve been working with CUESA since I was in high school. I got involved through a friend who was working at CUESA and asked if I wanted a job. I’ve been with CUESA for 12 years now. I’m currently the Assistant Operations Manager for CUESA. I do a little bit of everything. I’m everywhere on a market day, from helping with the Veggie Valet and Info Booths to managing chef parking. I also manage all the sellers documents, making sure they are up to date and compliant with the SF Fire Department. Before working at CUESA, I’d never gone to a farmers market. Now that I know what goes on behind the scenes at markets, I like to check out different markets when I get the chance to see how they’re different from us and get ideas of how to make ours better. 

How has your work changed since the pandemic?

A lot has changed over these past couple of months. The market is constantly changing, with moving farmers and vendors around to comply with social distancing guidelines, while also making sure everyone is safe while shopping at the market. The first month of shelter in place was stressful, not knowing if markets were going to stay open and adapting to all the changes. There is more work to do now, from drawing lines on the ground for social distancing to setting up handwashing stations for customers. Luckily, we have a good team that rolls with any punches that are thrown at us. 

What’s something that you wish people understood better?

I wish customers understood farmers drive early in the mornings and a long distance to come to the market. I wish everyone would give the farmers time to set up properly and time to collect themselves, even if they’re eager to pick up produce for themselves.

What do you do to recharge outside of work? 

A hobby I recently picked up due to gyms being closed was jogging. I jog around my neighborhood usually at John McClaren Park or even down here on the Embarcadero after work. I now jog about 5 times a week, 3-6 miles a time. It helps me zone out and not think about all the stuff happening all around us. I challenged myself to run 100 miles in May, and I did about 105 miles!

Do you have any favorite market foods or tips you can share?

There are so many good choices to choose from. For prepared foods, my go-to on the weekdays are the loco moco from Namu and either a burrito or tacos from Mi Comedor. On Saturday, Primavera is my go-to, with either tacos or chilaquiles. There are never any wrong decisions on what to pick up at the market any day of the week since they are all delicious.

Is there anything else you would like our market community to know?

I want to let all the people know that we are thankful for the shoppers and farmers showing up rain or shine to support us. Without shoppers or farmers, there won’t be any market.

Photo by Amanda Lynn Photography.

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 »