BERKELEY, Calif. — It was another busy day for the local farmers at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Berkeley. Despite the cloudy weather, more than 30 stands were dutifully set up in an orderly fashion, all displaying a colorful array of naturally grown food and produce.
In particular, the farmers from Blossum Bluff Orchards drew a crowd, perhaps due to the size of their stand as well as the picked fruits neatly on display, waiting to be grabbed, weighed and purchased. Bryce Loewen, a seasoned professional at these markets, is already hard at work, ensuring that his customers are being properly attended and that all questions and concerns are answered. He knows the business well; his family started the orchards in 1931, and growing up on the farm has led him to be actively involved.
While Blossum Bluff Orchards particularly caters to the Bay Area, Loewen participates in about eight different markets a week.
Like the other vendors, Loewen said he particularly enjoys the sense of community that has become synonymous with the markets. Not only that, he strongly believes in the work that they are promoting: “It’s hugely important to me,” he says. What is it that they’re promoting? While certainly multifaceted, the farmers said they hope to educate and supply people with accurate and honest information on the benefits of organically grown foods.
Blossum Bluff Orchards specializes in a variety of different tree fruits. They are helped significantly by the location of their farm in the San Joaquin Valley. Described as a “mecca” for farming, the warm climate and rich lands allow their trees to produce the best fruit possible. It can become hard transporting these fruits to the various markets and destinations that they need to get to so the Loewen family relies on a rented warehouse in the Bay area to ensure that consumers get their fruit fresh.
While detailing the history of the farm, Loewen attributed a lot of the inspiration to the green revolution that took place in the mid-20th century after World War II, though not in the way one might initially think. For those that don’t know about the green revolution, it was essentially a massive initiative that incorporated research, science and new technologies to increase agriculture production on a global scale. The catch, however, was that in order for this to happen, a lot of different pesticides and herbicides were necessary. In essence, the green revolution brought an almost Industrial Age approach at farming, looking for the methods that generated the most production and efficiency.
This led to concerns that included not only negative environmental impacts but also health-related problems. Blossum Bluff Orchards made it its mission to bring agriculture back to its natural roots, and the owners gained their organic certification.
Loewen knows that he comes from a special place. There is a large market for organically grown foods, especially in the Bay Area. He said, “I feel lucky to be in a place where [organic food] has always been accessible.”
Co-worker Lydia Deerhart said she recently receieved a phone call from a friend of hers who lives in the Dakotas: “She called me crying because of how difficult it is to acquire to fresh food where she lives.”
Both understand the arguments behind genetically modified crops, especially regarding the ease, efficiency and sheer level of production, but there is something that has Loewen worried. Like most other organic farmers, he is concerned with the still unknown effects and impacts of such methods. Blossum Bluff Orchards has a special view of these methods, considering that they are bordered by large corporate farms. Loewen can see how these corporate farms and their methods can endanger the quality of life on farms.
He said, “They put these [suits] on and begin spraying all their crops, and once they’re done, they go around putting up picket signs with skull and crossbones … it really makes you wonder what you’re truly getting.”