Berkeley farmers’ market builds relationships

Every Saturday, locals and tourists come together to see food, plants, music and people that the Berkeley’s http://ecologycenter.org/fm/ has to offer.

One of the most memorable parts of this experience is the sound of Lindell Reeves’ voice, a mixture of country twang and Southern soul. Reeves is 80 and has been playing guitar and writing songs since he was a boy growing up in Tennessee.

He first came to Berkeley in the 1960s during the Summer of Love and has been entertaining people at this same farmers’ market for more than 20 years. His favorite part about these days is “singin’ the blues” and watching the people go by, and he said the relationships he has fostered is what keeps him coming back.

ChocolateBooth

Sean Jewell not only sells his unique chocolate, but he is also the one who makes it. Photo by Makena Huey

Another longtime face at the Saturday market downtown is Sean Jewell, who has been selling raw chocolate for the past six years. His favorite part of the market is “talking to customers and getting their opinions,” which is how he keeps up with their changing food preferences.

He said that working together with the other vendors is a distinctive part of their local community and they “definitely keep an eye on each other, in a good way.” If one of the nearby vendors needs to take a break, he will watch their booth or offer to help their customers.

He also said that he and some of the other vendors have a “barter economy,” offering that “I’ll give you some chocolate for some cheese.”

The relationships between the vendors is important, and the vendors’ relationships with their customers are even more important, said Dante Kaleo, the youth program assistant for the Ecology Center. His job is to organize everything and make sure that the city and the vendors are communicating.

The farmers’ market allows California farmers to bring seasonal, locally grown produce to sell directly to consumers. Kaleo said, “Our mission is based around sustainability and economic awareness.”

He loves his job, he said, because of “the amount of appreciation” he gets and “the relationships and trust” he builds with his customers. Locals often come here to purchase their everyday necessities and end up “running into their friends” along the way. Although the Ecology Center is constantly trying to evolve and improve, customers can always count on the atmosphere to “stay exactly the same,” he said.

veggies

More than 60 vendors set up at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Center Street. Photo by Makena Huey

Kaleo said the market has had a positive impact on Berkeley because it “brings people together and builds a strong sense of community.” For more information about upcoming events, you can visit their website here.