The Farmers’ Market keeps it fresh

BERKELEY, Calif. — The scene openes with a crowded Berkeley street, packed full of white-topped canopies and a colorful aray of fruits, vegetables and other organic products. The smells of freshly baked bread and home-brewed coffee fill the air, and the street seems to come to life with the folk like sounds of the local musicians and their eclectic  variety of instruments. This is a Saturday at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.

The farmers’ market was opened in 1987 “to connect urban consumers with farmers,” said Ben Feldman, program manager of the Ecology centre, which runs the market. In 1987 it was especially hard to get food directly from farms.  The goal of the market was to help both the farmer and the consumer.

Colorful fresh produce paints the scene at the Berkeley Farmers' Market. Photo by Evan Stark

The farmers’ market represents a facility completely dedicated to being environmentally friendly and as organic as possible. On every day except Thursday the produce is 80 percent organic. On Thursday the produce is 100 percent organic. The use of methyl bromide as a fertilizer is prohibited in the market because of its ozone-depleting characteristics. Methyl iodide is prohibited because it is toxic. The markets also have a zero-waste policy. All items found in the market are either compostable or recyclable. Customers are also encouraged to bring their own bags. If one wants to obtain a bag from the market, a 25-cent tax is charged. This ethos is what makes the Berkeley market unique.

The famers’ market is useful not only to the urban customer but the farmer as well. If a farmer had to sell his goods thriugh a middleman, he would have to sell his produce at the wholesale price. But at the market, the farmer sells his produce at  the retail price. “We want to support our farmers,” said Feldman. However, the farmers’ market is not open to all farmers.

Before being allowed to be a vendor, the farmers’must first obtain a Certified Producers Certificate from the Health Department. The department sends a representative to a farm to take note of the crops grown there. Vendors are only allowed to sell the crops noted down by the. This ensures hat the produce sold at the market is grown by the farmers themselves, said Feldman.

Diversity is also key when it comes to what is sold at the market. No two stalls are the same and the market has to reflect the needs of the community. The farmers’ market “gives urban consumer access to good, healthy, organic food,”said Feldman.