My previous life in produce

September, 2014 · By Peter DeLucchi

Before making the decision to become a painter full-time, I had a full life of caring for and moving produce from farms to trucks to homes. Attending to produce is no small task, as the product is 100% perishable and expires before our eyes. I always saw it as my responsibility to honor the many hands in labor and have the least amount of wasted produce as possible. This meant there was a small window of time in which I had to get produce into the kitchens of customers. Beautiful displays, fine tuning price points and selecting the best quality fruits and vegetables became my daily meditation for a decade of my life.

Mt Davidson Market San Francisco Leo DeLucchi
My grandfather, Leo DeLucchi (left), in 1939 at the DeLucchi family market, Mt. Davidson Market, in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood.

My journey into produce came naturally after I finished my BFA at UC Santa Cruz. I had just finished using scholarship money to travel for 7+ months around most of Europe with my back pack and tent. And when I returned, I wasn’t ready to leave the Santa Cruz Mountains, but needed a job so I started working at New Leaf in Boulder Creek as a produce buyer. And while a job in produce was new to me, I guess you could say it was in my blood.

My great-great grandpa Joseph ran a produce ranch in Colma, just south of SF in the 1870″s. He also raised flowers adjacent to the San Souci Creek (where the “wiggle” bike route now runs through the Haight) and operated an artesian well, too. Fun side note; my great-great grandpa Joseph’s nickname at the SF produce wholesale market was “San Souci” which means “without care”.

My great grandpa Antonio ran a produce market in the same neighborhood on Lyon Street until W.W.1. when he would work at the ship yards at pier 70 (Potrero Point). My grandpa Leo became involved in produce in the early 1920’s and along with my great uncle Jess, owned and operated a grocery store in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood up to the mid/1970’s. When I left Bonny Doon and moved back to San Francisco in 2003, I worked as a produce buyer and managed a work crew of ten for Real Food Co. on Stanyan Street, minutes away from the now paved over San Souci Creek. The San Souci still runs, underground, methodical, and without a care.
I never had a chance to meet my grandfather but when my folks tell stories about him and his store, I feel warmly connected the man who also spent days and nights connecting a community with good food. I am proud and grateful to have shared this in this labor tradition that has given me an unique view onto the San Francisco and California landscapes.

Leo DeLucchi, my grandfather, at the Mt. Davidson Market of San Francisco's West Portal
My grandfather, Leo DeLucchi (left).

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