Family takes its fruit from the field to Berkeley

BERKELEY, Calif. —  “No spray, no pesticides, no chemicals,” Lisa Kashiwase proudly proclaims. Wearing a sun hat with a low brim, she deftly cuts peaches for samples — 13 varieties. Their peach farm, in Merced County, has been a family business for three generations.

Kashiwase Farms

As she talked to us, her niece and son greeted the oncoming customers, some of whom had come to taste the samples.

Her husband, Steven Kashiwase, was back home managing the farm.  Lisa waved her free hand around the stall when talking about their business.

“[We are] everywhere…Santa Cruz, San Mateo…”

She said the farm had a canning business back in the 1980s, but shakes her head when asked about selling through commercial supermarkets. “No, never a supermarket.”

Along with Kashiwase Farms, Woodleaf Farm, which has been at the Farmers’ Market for 15 years — also sells a large variety of organic peaches. Andrew Seidman and Danny Lazzarini often alternated between taking care of the stall and working back at the farm in Oroville, about an hour north of Sacramento.

Andrew Seidman from Woodleaf Farm

Seidman said it was hard work in order to transport the equipment and peaches from the farm, nearly two and a half hours away.

Woodleaf Farms chose the Berkeley markets back when “it was becoming a popular and a new way to have direct sales. It was better than selling wholesale retail price.” Seidman said he liked the market because it allowed farmers to directly connect with buyers. He noted that he had a good community with the buyers and with the other vendors. “I know almost everybody here,” he said.

In addition to the peaches making up the majority of the stall, Woodleaf Farms also had cucumbers sitting in the front. Seidman said, “It’s nice to have vegetables in addition to food. And I just really like cucumbers and I grow a lot of them. But I have too many so I bring it to the customers.”

His good connection with his customers is seen when a customer walked up and started a conversation about a wildfire several weeks back that destroyed most of Seidman’s home, equipment and about 10 percent of their trees. Seidman reassured her: “We are doing everything we can.”

Eddie Diaz from Golden Rule Organics

Golden Rule Organics has been at the Berkeley market for three years. The 8-year-old farm is a family business in Hollister, in San Benito County. It started out small, but gradually grew to become a 17-acre farm.

Eddie Diaz, one of its owners, noted how difficult it was to get a stall.

“It’s a bit hard to try to get in here, because they give first priority to the older farmers. So it’s tougher for a new farmer to get into the farmers’ market,” he said. While Diaz was content now, he said that they may expand if the opportunity arises.

Golden Rule Organics boasts a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables.

“We have a lot…we have two types of kale…chard, collard greens, five different types of squash, like eight different types of tomatoes. We try to keep a variety in order to keep customers happy,” he said.