The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market was launched in 2004 after the North Shattuck Association approached the Ecology Center with the idea of launching an all-organic market in the heart of the city’s Gourmet Ghetto district. Ten years later, the market at Shattuck Ave. and Rose St. serves some 1,700 shoppers weekly—most of who arrive by foot, bike, or public transit.
Located in a traditionally walkable urban neighborhood, the North Berkeley market was established as a “Zero Waste Zone.” Plastics have nearly all been eliminated and the market serves as an advocacy outlet to encourage sustainable living. Many visitors bring and their own bags or baskets for their shopping, helping it to become a model for Alameda County’s Reusable Bag ordinance, which seeks to eliminate the use of single-use carryout bags.
The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market is one of the few in the country only 100% organic products, including produce, cheese, nuts, meats, seafood, pasta, and baked goods. Many well-known restaurants in the area like Chez Panisse, Bistro Liaison, and The Cheese Board Collective, as well as local-source food guru Alice Waters and author Michael Pollan, source their products from the market.
“The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market is a hub of the alternative food system,” said Martin Bourque, the Ecology Center’s Executive Director. “It’s a place where city people can pursue good health, delight their senses, socialize, support farmers who are excellent stewards of the land, and stimulate the local economy. We’re proud of this thriving community asset.”
Though the North Berkeley market is the smallest of the Ecology Center’s three farmers’ markets in the city, a 2012 survey showed that the addition of the market increased visitors to the North Berkeley Business District, and in turn, boosted local businesses. The survey revealed that 56% of shoppers come to the area specifically to attend the market and 72% of market shoppers reported spending an average of $34 at other local businesses as well—adding up to over $2 million in annual sales for North Berkeley businesses.
“From opening day on, the neighborhood has shown up in droves … loyal weekly customers, summer tourists, local businesses, and so many others,” said Karen Lucero of Lucero Organic Farms.
“A farmers’ market can be a great catalyst for reinvestment and revitalization in any neighborhood. It and can help establish a local, organic focus that can help a community differentiate itself from other competing places,” says Opticos Principal Dan Parolek. “The North Berkeley market has truly become a great resource for the community. Its location within a walkable urban neighborhood means that most people coming to the farmers’ market are on foot or bike and that it supports the nearby neighborhood main street businesses.”
The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market celebrates its 10-year anniversary this Thursday with live music by jazz and blues duo Dewayne Oakley and Christopher Lowell Clarke and a cake cutting. The event kicks off at 3pm, and visitors are encouraged to dress festively.
The Ecology Center has been promoting healthy, sustainable living for over four decades. The nonprofit organization aims to educate the public on the environmental impacts on urban residents, create community momentum, and advocate for food and farming.
Main image courtesy of Liz Rusby, The Grubb Company.
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