The spirit of the market

BERKELEY, Calif. — A Farmers’ Market is more than just a place to buy your locally grown produce. It’s a place to raise your family, a place to express yourself, a place to call home. When you walk down the block that makes up the Berkeley Farmers’ Market your senses come alive. As the many different smells waft through the air, they  blend and create a comforting scent.

One of these smells that stood out came from a tent labeled Oktoberfest. The stand sells homemade bakery items, such as chocolate croissants and reaper buns. Vendor Matt Smith sells the bakery goods, made by a local German family makes.

Maria Sanchez said her husband has been farming for more than 50 years. When one of her sisters who was working at the market quit, Sanchez came to work in her place. She recalls her first day at the market, remembering how shy and nervous she was about talking to the customers. However, she said she loves the market and  it’s been easy talking to all the people who stop to purchase her herbs and vegetables.

There’s more than just food, though — musicians, a clown and a massage tent add to the eclectic mix. Masseuse Catherine Rinaldo has been working at the market for 10 years. “Generosity is the spirit of the market,” she said as we walked to get coffee from a nearby stand, and adding, “It’s absolutely beautiful.” Rinaldo says that though there are many markets, Berkeley’s is the best. “I would surely be on the waiting list at any other market but not at this one.”

Victor Chen, a frequent shopper, remembers bringing his daughter to the market when she was young. “Even though it can get a little pricey, the market has a nice feeling,” he said. He frequents his favorite stands, Blue Heron and River Dog. He plans to continue shopping at the market for as long as he can.

This market has been open since 1991, but the Ecology Center began managing it in 2001, said Dylan Cardiff. He  joined as a volunteer in 2007, and now works as a correspondent between the vendors and the center.  He said, “locally produced food is absolutely critical for sustaining our planet.”

Customers of all ages come to shop at the Berkeley Farmers’  Market to enjoy the local produce. Photo by Mary Jenkins