Farmers’ Market, more than just a shopping list

Rows of freshly sliced peaches line the market street. Photo by Kirsty Sinclair

Market vendors bring various types of freshly sliced peaches for shoppers to sample. Photo by Kirsty Sinclair

BERKELEY, Calif. — As diverse as the people who visit it, the Berkeley Farmers’ Market is a social hub bustling with vendors, shoppers, musicians and more. Even though people travel far and wide to visit the farmers market, it has a sense of community that is a friendly reminder of home.

“No matter where I am, I always go to the farmers’ market. It’s the best way to get to know the city,” said Joy Katz. She loves the peaceful atmosphere, and the always unique foods and entertainment. She enjoys standing in line and asking locals what they like to order. She said the people you meet at farmers’ markets are some of the best.

“This market, these foods, it’s a way of life for the people out here,” said Matt Smith, who saw a help-wanted sign in the window of his favorite bakery, and after years of buying their pretzel croissants, started working for them. He has now been there for two years at their booth, and said 80 percent of his customers are those returning week after week.

“When I can spend some time talking to the farmer who grows my fruit, I feel much better about spending my money,” said Samantha Mary. She was joined by her younger brother at the market, both enjoying some fresh strawberries.

Many of the regular shoppers share the same ideal. One of these Frances Taubern, who has a consumer-vendor relationship, trading her homegrown lemons for organic pasta.

Along with providing for consumers, the market is also a flourishing job market. Emory Cline said, “My neighbor grows the fruit, and I get to hand out samples at the farmer’s market. I love it!”

She was offered a summer job at her neighbor’s booth handing out fruit samples. She said greeting people from everywhere on a sunny Saturday morning at the market makes her summer job much more than that.

“My whole family is involved in the farm; I love helping,” said Esenia Barraza.

“I remember when this market started 30 years ago… been a part of it ever since. Everyone knows my name,” said Van, who goes only by her first name. She was homeless before the market became a part of her life, and now sells newspapers and helps out vendors.