What brings people to the farmers’ market?

BERKELEY, Calif. — At the corner of Center and Milvia streets each Saturday morning is the inviting aroma of fresh fruit, multicultural cuisine and friendly chatter. The Berkeley Farmers’ Market, consistent with the city’s diversity and individualism, is the perfect settling ground for vendors, shoppers, street artists, city officials and street people looking for help. Farmers, families, shoppers, bakers and more share space from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. What brings people here?

Dozo the clown at the Farmers' Market and her two most famous items, by Anna Levy

Dozo the clown at the Farmers’ Market,
Photo by Anna Levy

Dozo the Clown is a balloon street artist who has been coming to the market for three years. She was a “cultural refugee” from New Jersey who came to San Francisco to find her place, she said. She studied at New College in San Fransisco, with a thesis on clowns and their impact on society through American History. When she discovered she could find a job entertaining children, after teaching herself to work with balloons, she knew she had found her passion. “Everyone is so relaxed and happy to be here”, she says. Her once a week trip to the market pays $60 on average, as she works only for tips (and also accepts jokes). As not only a clown but also a poet, California was the place to be for her. “There is so much culture and acceptance in San Francisco,” she said.

Evalyn Carbrey, the City of Berkeley Health, Housing and Community Services program director, comes to the Farmers’ Market several times during the summers. Thanks to her close relationship with the Farmers’ Market, she is able to provide checks and food stamps to help underprivileged people eat healthier foods, such as the fresh fruits and vegetables sold at the market, she said. The campaign also encourages drinking more water and cutting out other drinks, such as sugary juices or soda. Her program, the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, works to serve pregnant women, new moms and children under five. This project is only possible  with the aid of the Ecology Center, which matches government funding.

Lucky and Sativa the cat at the Farmers' Market  by Anna Levy

Lucky and Sativa the cat at the Farmers’ Market
Photo by Anna Levy

Sitting on the grass are Lucky and Shadow, a young couple selling homemade jewelry, notebooks and Tarot readings. They discovered the market by attending an event three weeks earlier and decided to come back each Saturday morning since. In order to have a station at the market, vendors must apply. However, Lucky and Shadow have yet to be confronted about their nearby location. “I’m not sure if we’re allowed to be here, but we’ll stay until somebody tells us to go away,” she said. Lucky is a disabled student, battling lupus while juggling both school and medical fees. While interviewing the couple, a vendor presented Lucky with a free peach. Lucky’s face brightened, and she told us, “We work at the farmer’s market, but we can’t afford to eat here. It’s nice to get fresh food once in a while.”