Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market brings community together

BERKELEY, Calif. — Different vendors began to set up early Saturday morning at the weekly downtown Farmers’ Market here. While putting out fresh tomatoes, strawberries and peaches, displaying honey and oils and calling out different pastries and breads, area farmers attracted locals as well as tourists.

Flowers at the Farmer's Market. Photo by Lisa Wratten

In addition to fresh tomatoes and peaches, brightly colored wildflower bouquets line Center Street. Photo by Lisa Wratten

Suzan Chun, a local from the Bay area, continually comes two to three times a week.

“The vendors have really, really good produce that’s fresh and tastes good,” Chun said.  “I’ll buy it on Saturday. and it’ll still be fresh on Friday when I cook it.”

One vendor, Katie Coffman, has been working for True Grass Farms for two years. True Grass Farms sells beef, as well as poultry and pork.

“I love coming to the farmers’ market because there’s a beautiful connection between the farmers and consumers. You’re seeing a product coming directly from the farm to the consumers,” Coffman said.

For some, this is their first time experiencing a Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market, which are held in three different locations each week, year-round. Hernandez Hideaway, a band of four years now,  performed for the first time last weekend. They brought the violin, mandolin, soprano saxophone, trombone, accordion and bass guitar to the market and street fair.

“We have kind of an old world Eastern Europe folk feel,” trombonist Sam Hernandez said.

Violinist as well as mandolinist Nao Nakazawa said that they were playing to promote their next show, which was their album launch party.

Others have been at the Farmers’ Market a lot longer; Three Twins Organic Ice Cream has been selling here for nearly nine years. The business was started in San Rafael by Neal Gottlieb.

“I like doing the market because it’s like I give back to the community,” Neal’s father, Simon, said.

Three Twins eventually expanded to Napa, Larkspur and San Francisco and built a factory in Petaluma. The ice cream is now in every Whole Foods store across the country, as well as some Costco’s. It has even found itself being enjoyed internationally, in places such as China, South Korea and Lebanon.

“All my son wanted to do was think of something that no one else was making; now look where that landed him,” Simon Gottlieb said.

For some people like George Haley, the farmers’ market means a great deal.

“The problem with food in the supermarket is that it has no flavor,” Haley said. “It’s picked before it’s ripened and then left to ripen off the vine. The Farmers’ Market is a great thing because the food ripens before getting picked.”

Hernandez Hideaway

Hernandez Hideaway warms up as they get ready for their first performance at Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market to promote their album release. Photo by Lisa Wratten

Haley has been going to the market for 26 years; the market has run for 27 years. He started because of the fresh tomatoes but became a regular because of the huge difference in taste for everything, as well as the organic produce, he said.

“The market means a lot as a community. I’ve been coming so long that I’ve made so many friends that I see every week. It’s the only time I get to see them, but I always love to chat with them,” Haley said.

Berkeley’s Farmers’ Market has a variety of products, from ice cream to fruits to pastries, meats, and cheeses. From toddlers to the elderly, the market draws a diverse crowd throughout the day as well, and brings together farmers and consumers.

“Eating is a spiritual act and I feel like the Farmers’ Market shares that. People connect over food,” Coffman said of True Grass Farms.