BERKELEY, Calif. — Not even a damp and chilly Saturday morning could deter nearby residents from visiting the Downtown Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Open year-round, rain or shine, this eco-friendly market provides a warm and colorful environment for all its visitors. Dozens of vendors line Center Street selling a variety of fresh, organic produce as well as hot food made right on site. The market is run by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the environment by providing both education and direct services, such as recycling, to the public.
The main idea behind the market is to “connect urban consumers with rural farmers,” said Ben Feldman, program manager at the Ecology Center. Since the center began managing the market in 1987, he and the staff have looked for diversity among farmers and their products. “It’s important that the market reflects the community,” he said. For this reason, vendors are not only chosen based on the quality and diversity of their produce, but also on their commitment to preserving the environment and limiting their waste. The market enforces a zero-waste policy, and only compostable bags are given to their shoppers.
Four different Farmers’ Markets open each week and dozens of different vendors set up shop. Andy Martin works at the market at Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. He
rents out his farmland to cheesemaker Larry Peter. It is there in Petaluma, Calif., where Peter raises close to 500 Jersey cows and produces his 100 percent, Jersey cow milk cheese. Martin spoke enthusiastically about the company as he cut bite-size pieces of Jack and Cheddar for customers to sample, explaining that it had been Peter’s lifelong dream to own and run a dairy. He brought out a leaflet about the dairy, adding proudly that the picture on the front page had been taken on his very own grassy hill.