Four times a week, people from all over gather in Berkeley for one reason: to shop. Instead of designer-name stores stand canopies that sell fresh produce, flowers and even those much-needed morning coffees. The Farmers’ Market in Berkeley has been active since 1987 and it has been bringing the community together ever since.
The shoppers are drawn to the markets to browse and sample while talking and laughing with the vendors. Among the many stands are musicians, who set an easygoing tone with their acoustic music.
There are about 55 different farms that bring their business to the market each time it is held. In addition to produce and vegetables, the businesses represented sell plants and flowers, various preserves and ice cream. Most vendors enjoy coming to the market, including Kari Sante of Flatland Flower Farm in Sebastopol, who loves “people- watching.” However, she appreciates the difference that the market makes in the community as well. Sante sells starter flower and vegetable plants, and she said that it is important to show people the benefits of organic and sustainable eating, especially in urban settings. The farm not only emphasizes the importance of fresh and healthy goods, but also locally grown products, especially if local means in your own backyard.
Francisco Lopez, from Challenge Horticulture in Half Moon Bay, also takes pleasure in selling at the Farmers’ Market. This past year has been the first year that the farm has participated in the market. The farm’s specialty is orchids, which are grown without pesticides. Once the Challenge Horticulture owners discovered the large market for orchids, they decided that it would be best for them to contribute to local businesses. They knew the positive consequences of their participation would be greatest at the Farmers’ Market.
Lopez, who understands the market’s effect on the community, remarked that, “we’re pretty lucky.” Having access to such fresh and wholesome products is not something that all people can brag about. Lopez loves that he helps expose people to better food and other products and also relishes in the community aspect of the market. He socializes with shoppers and other vendors, and finds that the Farmers’ Market, in addition to being beneficial to the area around Berkeley, is never a dull scene.
Yet another business present at the market is Three Twins Ice Cream. Based in Petaluma with locations all over Northern California, the organic ice cream business is booming. Simon Gottlieb, whose son, Neal, founded the company, was glad to share the organization’s roots. His son started making ice cream with organic ingredients on his own. He would make the ice cream in the morning, sell it in the afternoon and in the evening he would clean up and do all the necessary paperwork. As a one-person operation, it was stressful, so Gottlieb eventually hired new people and expanded his business into the large-scale enterprise that it is today.
However large Three Twins Ice Cream has become, the company remains committed to providing delicious and organic desserts for the community. It is their sixth year at the market, and the vendors said they understand the importance of their presence. The farmers’ market is significant, “for people who want to eat healthy,” says Gottlieb. He volunteers at the stand for his son, and experiences forging connections with shoppers and other businesses.
Three Twins Ice Cream often buys fresh fruits from other vendors at the market because “they’re not fooling you.” The businesses don’t want to deceive thei customers, but instead help its customers build healthy habits.
The Ecology Center runs the farmers’ market. Dylan Cardiff of the center said he hopes the market will “keep us connected to where food comes from.” At the market, there is no need for a middle man; you meet the farmers and their representatives directly.
Shopper Sylvia Strowe said, “I’ve always loved outdoor markets.” Strowe, who moved to San Francisco from New Jersey a years ago, feels a natural connection to the Farmers’ Market. Her ancestors were dairy farmers, so she is drawn to the market to reconnect with those roots. She enjoys the community aspect of the market, as it keeps ties alive between people, vendors and food. The farmers’ market keeps her inspired to try new things in the kitchen, but she said she cannot visit as much as she would like.