20 Women-Led Food Businesses You Should Know

Mariko Grady and friends at the Aedan Fermented stand (CUESA)

International Women’s Day is on March 8, 2019, 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)
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

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.

Jen Musty

Batter Bakery
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Jen Musty of Batter Bakery
Jen Musty of Batter Bakery (CUESA)

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.

Binita Pradhan

Bini’s Kitchen
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Bini's Kitchen
Bini's Kitchen (Amanda Lynn Photography)

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.

Vanessa Chavez

Cholita Linda
Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

Vanessa Chavez of Cholita Linda
Vanessa Chavez of Cholita Linda (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.

Tina McKnight

Dot’s Baking Pantry
Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

Tina McKnight of Dot’s Baking Pantry
Tina McKnight of Dot’s Baking Pantry (Peter DaDilva, San Francisco Chronicle)

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.

Kendra Kolling

The Farmer’s Wife
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Kendra Kolling of The Farmer’s Wife
Kendra Kolling of The Farmer’s Wife (CUESA)

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.

Wendy Towner

Honey Ladies
Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

The Honey Ladies family
The Honey Ladies family (The 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.

June Taylor

June Taylor Company
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

June Taylor of June Taylor Company
June Taylor of June Taylor Company (Ana Valdes)

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.

Carolina and Rosa Oliva

La Oaxaqueña
Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

Carolina Santos and Rosa Oliva of La Oaxaqueña
Carolina Santos and Rosa Oliva of La Oaxaqueña (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.

Yeyen Gunawan

La Vie Wellness
Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

Yeyen and her family
Yeyen and her family (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.

Gail Lillian

Liba
Thursdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Gail Lillian of Liba
Gail Lillian of Liba (CUESA)

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.

Olivia Mecalco

Mi Comedor
Tuesdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Olivia Mecalco of Mi Comedor
Olivia Mecalco of Mi Comedor (CUESA)

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!

Guadalupe Moreno

Mi Morena
Thursdays, Mission Community Market

Guadalupe Moreno of Mi Morena
Guadalupe Moreno of Mi Morena (Tory Putnam/CUESA)

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.

Karen Taylor & Team

Primavera
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Primavera stand
Primavera stand (Gary Yost)

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.

Kimberly Gonzales

Nahua Pizza
Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Kimberly Gonzales of Nahua Pizza
Kimberly Gonzales of Nahua Pizza (CUESA)

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.

Michelle Pusateri

Nana Joe’s Granola
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Michelle Pusateri (left) and Mollie Sitkin
Michelle Pusateri (left) and Mollie Sitkin (CUESA)

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.

Reem Assil

Reem’s
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and Sundays, Jack London Square Farmers Market

Reem Assil at her stand
Reem Assil at her stand (CUESA)

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.

Lenore Estrada

Three Babes Bakeshop
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Lenore with some produce for pies.
Lenore with some produce for pies. (CUESA)

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.

Aruna Lee

Volcano Kimchi
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Aruna at the Volcano Kimchi stand
Aruna at the Volcano Kimchi stand (CUESA)

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.

Mary Risavi

Wise Goat Organics
Saturdays, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Mary at the Wise Goat Organics stand
Mary at the Wise Goat Organics stand (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.

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This article originally appeared on CUESA.

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