Berkeley Farmers’ Market: the place to be for vendors

The farmers' market opens for business on a Saturday morning. (Photo: Eric He)

The farmers’ market opens for business on a Saturday morning.  Photo by  Eric He

BERKELEY, Calif. — The streets become busy as the Berkeley Ecology Center Farmers’ Market opens for business on a recent Saturday morning.

Vendors put up their stalls, where they sell various items such as fruit, vegetables, pottery and wine. Others give out free food samples, hoping to lure in a few customers as the day begins.

Jim Nofziga is just opening up his stall, which he calls “Triple J.” He is white-haired and enthusiastic, and it doesn’t take more than a minute for a line to form as people wait to buy some of his ginger.

“I do this to make money and supplement my retirement account,” Nofziga said.

The market, which opened in 1987, has become one of the best of its kind in the Bay Area. But in addition to winning numerous local awards, the market has larger goals.

According to their official website, the market teaches customers to practice sustainable farming and to be active in protecting the environment.

“From the very beginning, the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Markets have distinguished themselves from other farmers’ markets by keeping to the stated values of Environment, Community and Justice” said Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, who helped secure the first location when she was the Mayor of Berkeley.

Kate Pomelov says another benefit of being in business at the market is the ability to sell via retail instead of wholesale, allowing her to mark up her prices. Her stand, Lifefood Gardens, is stocked full with grains such as wheat grass, and she says this market is her best option to turn a profit.

Perhaps the most unique vendor market is a man who goes by the name, “The Apple Guy.” His stand has been in service since the market’s first day, and he has been working there for the past 10 years.

Walking up to his stand, it is clear that he has a strong bond with his customers.

“Good morning, beautiful weather today,” he chirps at a customer. Another client walks up, and they immediately engage in a conversation about baseball.

When it comes to business, “The Apple Guy” definitely has a secure job. There is a never-ending stream of people mulling around his stand, which contains strawberries and lots of apples.

“Very good business here,” he said. “Very good.” His voice trails off as yet another customer is ready to pay.