Berkeley’s Tuesday farmers’ market in its current Derby Street location. Photo: Ecology Center
Berkeley’s Tuesday farmers’ market in its current Derby Street location. Photo: Ecology Center

Some say change is as good as a holiday. Others counter that most resist change. But here’s what everyone can agree on: change comes, regardless.

And so it is that the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays is set to move to a new location. The first formalized farmers’ market in the city, which has called Derby Street at MLK Way in South Berkeley home for 25 years, is slated to relocate come July 10 to the parking bay at Adeline and 63rd Streets in the Lorin District. The market will run, as it does now, from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 6:30 p.m. (It’s a half hour earlier, to accommodate a church service on the site.)

The Ecology Center views the switch to a new spot in South Berkeley as part of an overall plan to increase access to farm-fresh food to areas that lack a major grocery store, though the shift also comes because the Berkeley Unified School District will be converting the adjacent playing field at the markets’ current location into a regulation-size baseball field.

“The move is really about effectively fulfilling our mission, both of supporting farmers and bringing healthy, local food to urban consumers, particularly in places where there is limited access to produce,” said farmers’ market manager Ben Feldman. “The timing is predicated by the construction, but this move would still be taking place, we’re just on an accelerated timetable due to the construction.”

Artichokes and fennel signal spring at the farmers’ market. Photo: courtesy Ecology Center
Artichokes and fennel signal spring at the farmers’ market. Photo: courtesy Ecology Center

On Monday, the Adeline-Alcatraz Merchants Association voted unanimously in support of the move. “It’s a win-win all round,” said Sam Dyke, head of the association, and owner of The People’s Bazaar, an antiques and collectibles store on Adeline. “The market needs a new home, and there are only convenience stores selling junk food here. This is a great opportunity for our community to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Dyke, who currently walks 15 minutes to the Tuesday market, is happy to have it closer to his store. “You can make a meal out of farmers’ market samples,” Dyke said, “I hope that residents — including children — come and taste what’s great about fresh fruit and vegetables and become converts.”

The parking bay where the new market will set up shop actually came in second when farmers’ market and city officials toured South Berkeley for a new location, said Michael Caplan, director of the Office of Economic Development. But when the top choice — in front of the recently constructed Ed Roberts Campus — was ruled out because of traffic logistics (closing a section of MLK Way proved untenable), the Adeline and 63rd Street spot quickly became plan B.

Other potential pluses for the shift: increased visibility, access to more foot traffic, and proximity to BART, said Feldman. And — that bugaboo of urban life: parking — should be similar, if not better, he added. Some seniors at nearby Phillips Temple Church, which holds a prayer meeting on Tuesday night, were concerned about losing parking spots, but accommodations have been made to address that matter, noted Dyke.

Jennifer Millar, owner of Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, is delighted to welcome the market right in front of her door. “It’s a great new addition to our neighborhood,” she said.

Most vendors are happy about the move and welcome the chance to serve more people. Photo: courtesy Ecology Center

At this nascent stage most parties are talking up the possibilities for synergy between brick-and-mortar merchants and the one-day market, and preliminary research suggests there’s potential for vendors to reach more people and make more money at the site. The city will help out too, said Caplan, via a marketing campaign to spread the word about the shift.

The market will feature the same farmers and food artisans who currently sell at the Derby Street location. “Most of us see this as a positive move,” said farmer Tim Mueller of Riverdog Farm, which sells at all three Berkeley locations. “Transitions are always hard for people, so we may experience a little bit of a slump at the start. But we’re confident that are old customers will follow us here and we’ll find a whole new group of people, including many local residents, who welcome us into their neighborhood.”

Not every vendor is psyched about the shift. “Very sad and nostalgic as I have both shopped and sold at that market for 20 years now,” said Alex Hozven of Cultured Pickle Shop. “However I totally understand the logistical reasons the market is moving. There will undoubtedly be customer confusion, but after that initial period it will be interesting to see how it works out.”

HuNia Bradley, manager of the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice program for low-income residents, pointed out that the historic Lorin District is sometimes overlooked by business ventures. “We want to provide the same easy access to fresh, organic produce that other parts of Berkeley enjoy,” said Bradley of an area dotted with corner stores where nourishing food is typically scarce.

Unsurprisingly, folks who live within walking distance of the new location are happy with the shift, while some of those who will have to travel further are bummed to see their regular haunt go. But, as one farmers’ market fan said: “I would follow this market wherever it goes, even if it blasted off to the frozen tundra of the moon!”

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

A Berkeley field of dreams close to reality… after 15 years
Farmers’ market favorite Phoenix Pastificio [12.16.11]
Aaron Betesh, Blue Heron Farms [10.01.10]
Alex Hozven and Kevin Farley, Cultured Pickle Shop [07.09.10]
Ben Feldman: Farmers’ Market man [06.18.10]
Neighborhood revival: Kick-starting the Lorin District [04.27-10]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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