When we arrived on our 54-passenger charter bus, the first thing we noticed about Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market were the tents. Clean, white canopies, numbering in the dozens, lined Center Avenue and stretched up to Martin Luther King Way. Each enclosure housed a series of organic treats, ranging from freshly picked fruits and vegetables to oysters on the half shell, shucked right in front of your eyes. As a moderately versed foodie, I was entranced not only by the sights and smells of the market, but also by the dedication of the vendors’ convictions.
In a world of processed “goods” and commodified needs, farmers’ markets such as this extol upon the merits of hard work and commitment to the land. Advocates for cleanly produced food have spoken out against the genetically modified practices that make their way into most supermarkets and shopping centers. An example of this altering can be seen in the hormone tinkering of most cows. This practice not only increases the volume of milk produced and muscle enhanced, but also nhas been linked to the rise in certain types of cancers in humans.
California’s Food Lobby has been fighting against a label for GMO-enhanced products, knowing full-well that this facts-up-front stance would potentially harm their sales and image. Berkeley’s farmers fight against the round-about practices of food corporations because they specialize in wholly natural means of producing the freshest of products. You can taste the difference between a peach that has been grown without hindrance and one that has been mass-produced for supermarkets. It is not only a means of production but also a way of life for the vendors at the market, and this love for green-living has infused itself into the consciousness of Berkeley as a whole.
Stepping away from politics for a moment, it’s easy to appreciate the Farmers’ Market for its more base pleasures. Tasting newly cultivated goat cheese after sampling newly baked pastries will truly give any of the market’s visitors a reason to speak out for organic cuisine. The venue’s open-air concept allows for a warm and welcoming environment for anyone who is passing through. The variety on display is stunning, with chefs preparing fresh quiche alongside vendors glorifying the multitude of uses for tofu. Speaking as an ardent antagonist of tofu, I must say that the selections I sampled may have turned me into a mild enthusiast.
In the end, enthusiasm is what pervades a place like Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market. Organic farming is a way of life, and it’s venues such as this that allow the world to enjoy and appreciate not only the hard work but the bountiful benefits of this type of cultivation. I can only hope that the shift from processed to organic food will find its way into the consciousness of the country as it has here in Berkeley, Calif.