Customers go for organic food at market

BERKELEY, Calif. — Red apples, green garlic, crimson peaches, gold curries: Sharp as the colors were, they blended perfectly into the remote scent of soil and dewdrop at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  It is one of four markets in the Alameda District certified and operated by the Ecology Center. California farmers have brought locally grown goods to the Berkeley community since 1987.

The Ecology Center is dedicated to “connecting urban consumers with rural farmers,” said Ben Feldman, program manager for the markets, which were initiated by a group of Berkeley residents who were seeking direct access to real, fresh, seasonal products in the late 1980s.

Today’s Berkeley Farmers’ Market is notable for its high percentage of organic food. It supports small-scale farmers who practice sustainable agriculture and provides the Berkeley community with healthy food. At the Thursday market, 100 percent of the stands sell organic food, and on Saturdays, 80 percent of the stands sell organic.

Kaki farm, which has been selling organic fruit and vegetables for a year and half here, attracts costumers with its homegrown produce. “The price is higher because it’s harder to grow organic food,” said Jessica Sifuentes, who works at Kaki farm, “but it’s healthier.”

“Our family only eats organic food,” she added, “no matter what.”

“We have been growing organic stone fruit since 1993,” said Artie Flores of Kashiwase Farms. The 90-year-old farm is certified organic and is part of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.

“Steven sensed a growing trend and a higher demand of organic food in the bay area,” said Flores of owner Steen Kashiwase. “Costumers are conscientious and willing to buy environmentally friendly food, especially after the organic movement in the 1990s.”

Today’s Kashiwase farm bases its business on organic stone fruit such as peaches. It continues to explore customers’ interest by introducing hybrids to the market.

Costumers taste different hybrid organic peaches at Kashiwase Farm. Photo by Shirley Chen

“I’m willing to pay a higher price for organic food because more care and attention is put into the process,”said Paul Ford, who has been shopping at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets for 16 years. “And the food is local. All of them are grown in the county.” Ford also mentioned he enjoys meeting farmers and friends here.

“I think the price worth it,” said Diemly Vo from San Jose. “I’m not only buying food for my family, I’m concerned with the environment as well.” Vo said the market in San Jose is smaller and has less organic food choice than the one in Berkeley. “If more people buy organic food, more farmers will grow it, and the price will finally go down,” said Vo.