Stories and connections: A walk through the Burlingame Farmers Market


Brinda Iyer

The farmers market provides a space for people to interact with each other and learn more about their community.

Brinda Iyer, Copy Editor

For some, the Burlingame Farmers Market means weekly access to locally sourced fruits and vegetables. For others, it means human connection — the small interactions with people that turn a city into a community. It could also mean the opportunity to support businesses run by friends and family. No matter what attendees go for, they leave with a strong understanding of the unity and diversity that Burlingame fosters — due in large part to the market’s vendors.

“[The farmers market] means life, good energy [and] issuing good things,” basket vendor Ibra Manneh said, who has consistently sold goods at the market since 2016. “It changes my mood.”

Manneh sells elephant-grass baskets, handmade by his relatives in Africa. Two weeks of work are required to produce a single basket, as the dyeing and weaving of the grass is a time-consuming process. He orders the baskets from his aunt and sells them in Burlingame. He also creates and sells beads and other small crafts.

“I started pretty slow, I started one thing at a time,” Manneh said, referring to his business. Before Manneh became a vendor, he attended the market as a customer who notably enjoyed the atmosphere and the familiar friendly faces.

“I love meeting new people every day and interacting with them,” Manneh said while waving a hearty hello to a passing customer.

Manneh’s belief that customers give life to the market is a popular one. For honey vendors Elizabeth and Roberto Rivas, their clients’ loyalty is what makes the market so special.

“Family, friends, we know a lot of people here,” Elizabeth Rivas said.

Roberto comes from a family of beekeepers and he learned the craft at an early age. He and his wife immigrated from Mexico over a decade ago and have been growing their San Mateo-based business in the Bay Area ever since.

“People love good, local honey,” Elizabeth Rivas said. “So we have customers here and they know [we’re] local and that helps.”

While some have been selling products at the farmers market for years, others, like focaccia bread vendor Julie Van Den Hout, are newer additions to the community. Based in San Carlos, Van Den Hout began baking in August of 2021. She and her husband, At Van Den Hout, decided to try their luck at the market after hearing about it from a friend and fellow vendor.

“It started as a COVID project where I was just determined to find a really good recipe for focaccia,” Julie Van Den Hout said. “I’m Italian and I love focaccia bread, so I just kept trying and trying until I came up with this [recipe].”

When she was first starting out, Van Den Hout was overwhelmed by the immense amount of support she received from market attendees.

“We brought in like 36 [loaves of bread] and sold them all by 10:30,” Van Den Hout said, referencing her first experience at the market. “I’m really grateful for this community.”

The Van Den Houts have already accumulated a number of loyal customers who look forward to seeing them every weekend and the line for their stand always trails to the neighboring booths.

“You’re taking time off… I don’t know if I’ll allow that,” one customer joked when Van Den Hout told them that she would not be at the market the following weekend.

Van Den Hout appreciates how the farmers market can bring people together and treasures the informal community that has formed around her booth.

“Meeting all the people is my favorite part [of the market],” Van Den Hout said. “The people are so nice and getting to know the families is great. Everyone is really positive.”