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‘We’re all good friends’: Community lauds Berkeley farmers markets

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The Berkeley Farmers’ Market has been running for more than 35 years.


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MARCH 06, 2023

The Berkeley Farmers Markets attracts community members from all over the Bay Area three times a week to support local vendors and businesses.

The Berkeley markets are open year-round every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, according to Daniel McChesney-Young, the farmers market program manager at the Ecology Center. The Thursday market in North Berkeley is entirely organic, and both the Saturday market downtown and Tuesday market in South Berkeley offer fresh, local produce.

“The whole purpose of farmers markets is to buy produce from the people who grow it,” McChesney-Young said. “Everybody has a sign that says ‘we grow what we sell.’ That’s not just a slogan; that’s like an actual legal statement that they’re saying — our farm grew these apples.”

The Berkeley Farmers’ Market has long been a constant in the community. According to McChesney-Young, it has been running for more than 35 years. Over the years, it has kept with its original intention of offering locally grown produce and a community center, McChesney-Young said.

He added that with an estimated 300,000 annual visitors and more than 65 vendors selling their goods, the Berkeley market has maintained long-term vendor relationships and a reliable clientele.

“For a lot of people the farmers market isn’t just a place to buy food,” McChesney-Young said. “They want to chat with the farmers or the bakers; they want to see their friends who they see there every week; they want to get outside, have a snack while they’re shopping, sit in the park, bring their kids.”

McChesney-Young noted that many of their vendors have been selling their goods and produce in Berkeley markets for more than 20 years. When the market began, he said there were not many local markets. Even now, McChesney-Young said the Berkeley market is the only farmers market some of its vendors sell at, making the event a necessary source of income.

Part of the joy of Berkeley’s Farmers Market is the community, said Eduardo Morell. Morell, who runs his family bakery Morell’s Bread with his wife and daughter, said the Berkeley market brings in a crop of consistent customers. Morell’s family has been selling bread at Berkeley markets since 2002, specializing in sourdough and whole wheat breads.

Morell’s is consistently a fan favorite amongst local clientele. Barry Cynamon has been a weekly customer at the organic market for about a year. As a North Berkeley resident, Cynamon is able to walk to the Vine Street location every Thursday to shop.

“I think the reason we like to come to the farmers market is primarily to support local agriculture and local artisans,” Cynamon noted. “We like getting bread from Morell’s for really fresh, well-produced bread. It’s nice to have in the community.”

Beyond reliable customers, Morell said one of the best parts of the Berkeley market is the community of vendors. This community is the most enjoyable part of the job for Charles Gatto of Gattonelli Farms, a small family-run farm from Covelo, California. Gatto has been selling at the Berkeley market for 20 years and specializes in vegetables like tomatoes and onions. They are most known for their tomato sauce and juice. According to Gatto, the main incentives to return are the people, the community and the good conversations.

Flowers & Such farmer and vendor Jalee Turner expressed a similar sentiment. Based in Penn Grove, Flowers & Such is an organically farmed flower company that works eight markets a week.

“I leave when it’s dark and get back home when it’s dark,” Turner said laughingly about his work schedule.

Despite the long, arduous hours that he and so many other vendors work nearly daily, Turner said he has a profound love for his job, company and markets.

Turner added that Berkeley’s commitment to environmental policy and regulation, such as through the use of biodegradable products and compostable bags, sets the city’s markets apart from others he has worked at.

In addition, Turner commended the hard work of vendors, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Ecology Center, farmers markets continued to operate during the pandemic, strictly enforcing COVID-19 restrictions to ensure customer and employee safety while encouraging local turnout. McChesney-Young said for many vendors, the market was their only source of income.

“Farmers markets stayed essential,” Turner said. “Especially in urban, metropolitan areas, a lot of people rely on farmers markets for produce.”

This week alone, the smaller organic market on Thursdays hosted about 20 vendors and welcomed about 100 customers hourly. According to Ecology Center community guidelines posters, Berkeley’s markets accept CalFresh EBT, WIC and offer Market Match incentives.

The market’s employees are stationed in a central tent to help customers with these initiatives, as well as anything else the customers and vendors may need.

“We are able to match dollar for dollar up to 10 dollars with extra money for people who are in the supplemental nutrition assistance program,” McChesney-Young said.

Berkeley’s farmers markets are bridging the gap between farm and table through interpersonal relationships and a communal love for locally sourced crops, art and business.

Students eagerly browsed the fresh produce sections, elderly women scoured the homemade jewelry and families stood to listen to the live street musicians.

“We’re all good friends, we all know each other,” Morell said. “It’s nice to have that kind of camaraderie at the market.”

Contact Rae Wymer at 


MARCH 09, 2023