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Berkeley: Stunning organic mini farmers market next to Indus Village

Driving down San Pablo this afternoon, I noticed a table in the patio area attached to Indus Village. I had no intention of buying ... but the prices were so shockingly low and the items stellar.

The sign said Mandela Marketplace and something about the Healthy neighborhood food alliance .

Looking at the prices, I asked over and over if this was for anyone ... was this subsized?. I'm not taking food out of poor people's mouths. However, they said it was just food by farmers within a 200 mile radius.

Here's the prices ... and you have to keep in mind this was ALL organic and better than what I've seen at even the Berkeley farmers market.

Organic red onions 3 for $1
Organic Fuji apples 4 for $1
Organic raisins 1/2 lb 85 cents

The also had bottles the size of Marshall's small honey jars with organic dried herbs. They charge 50 cents for the bottle, but the prices ...

Organic ginger root powder 4oz 1.26 ... add 50 cents for jar... 1.75
Organic cinnamon powder 4 oz 49 cents ... total with jar 99 cents

There were also grains, nuts, sugar, etc

Organic oatmeal 1lb $1
Organic brown rice 1 lb $1.25
Organic cane sugar 1 lb $1.25
Organic red lentils 1 lb $2

Those red onions are the nicest I've seen ever. The cane sugar was just gorgeous and very sparkly. i;ve never seen sugar like that. I bought a lot of red lentils. Not only are these the best I've ever seen, the same price for other organic lentils would run $5 - $6 lb.

They had other veggies, fruits and herbs. Some fantastic looking carrots, but I just don't need any right now. There were some nice looking bags of peanuts. It is not big, just about the size of a single stand at a farmers market.

I've looked on the website printed on the bags and don't seem to find any info

Anyway, they said they are there Fri, Sat and Sun from 10 am - about 4 pm.

Anyone know more about this?

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  1. Wow, sounds great. Did they say what farms the veggies were coming from? Obviously, the dry goods aren't local--no sugarcane growing up here! and no peanuts either. But the prices are great. I'd imagine it's a non-profit program funded through some kind of healthy-food-options-for-low-income-neighborhoods organization. It should definitely get some chowhound support!

    4 Replies
    1. re: dixieday2

      No locally grown cinnamon or ginger, either. But it does sound fantastic. Good to know that people in the neighborhood have the resource.

      1. re: jlafler

        I have seen fresh ginger root for sale at stands at a few certified farmers markets. When I asked the farmers whether they grew it themselves, they stated they did. i remain skeptical, but would love to be proved wrong.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I know that Phan, which sells at the Thursday Berkeley market, has ginger, and the explanation is it's hot-house grown. (In fact, my mother mentioned they're the only vendor selling red bell peppers beyond summer, because they grow them in their hot house.) I doubt anyone's processing dried ginger from locally grown sources, but their may be others growing it in hot houses.

      2. re: dixieday2

        Actually sugar cane is grown in California. Here's a 2002 bill that allowed it.

        Don't forget there is sometimes fresh sugar cane at the Alemany and Civic Center from time to time and those markets are certified so they have to sell stuff from California. Though somehow I just can't imagine someone turning those sugar canes into sugar.

        Can't imagine anyone growing cinnamon. He probably just meant the produce. I'll have to ask though.

        The guy at the stand I think was one of the vendors I saw at the Mandela Farmers market in West Oakland. Here's my report from a few years ago

        He had two boys helping him maybe 11 - 13 years old. They were serious about doing the book keeping of what was being sold and totalling the costs, so maybe they are some of the kids involved in one of the programs that the site mentions.

      3. Drat. If I'd known that I would have swung by there yesterday as I was navigating the surface streets to avoid the huge backup on westbound 880.

        Indus Village Restaurant
        1920 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

        1. You may already have seen this (I found it via a link from the site you listed): http://www.mandelafoods.com/

          The gist is that they're in the process of setting up a co-op grocery ("a locally-owned and operated full-service grocery store and nutrition education center located in West Oakland, a community long underserved in grocery retail"). According to the site, they are getting close to completing construction, which means that they have to be getting their distribution chains in order; that may be what the outdoor market is about. It's a little confusing -- Mandela Grocery is affiliated with Mandela Marketplace, but I'm not sure if they're one and the same.

          7 Replies
          1. re: jlafler

            Interesting. I have a friend who lives in west Oakland, near the site of the co-op, which she has previously told me has been "coming soon" for a couple of years, and despite signs of construction she's not confident about its opening soon. The only other place retailing food in the neighborhood is a 99 cents store.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              An interesting stat, " . . . while there are 53 liquor stores in West Oakland today, 60-70% of the community’s food shopping is still unmet locally." from Brahm's Blog

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Yup, my friend shops in Berkeley (where she works) or in the Grand Lake neighborhood, but not everyone can get on the freeway for everyday groceries.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  I hope we hear about other locations besides Indus Village closer to West Oakland that are part of the Mandela Marketplace effort.


              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                It's open.

                Mandela Foods
                1430 7th St, Oakland, CA

            2. Thank you, rw. Will check it out this afternoon!

              1. I walked over at 2PM Sunday and saw not a sign of it. Maybe they packed up early. Oh well, I bought some halal chicken.

                1. Thank you for mentioning this and introducing me to this wonderful resource.
                  I am the director of Mandela MarketPlace. We are a non-profit located in Oakland that provides community leadership, economic and entrepreneurial opportunity to low-income residents, youth and minority farmers. We have been operating a small produce distribution operation for the last couple of years, mostly to support our market booths selling fresh, affordable foods to seniors in West and North Oakland. We are now gearing up our produce supply in preparation for the opening of Mandela Foods Cooperative -- one of our incubation projects. Our new produce buyer, whom you met on Saturday, is establishing the produce market you visited in partnership with Indus Foods. All of our veggies are supplied by local, minority farmers who farm completely chemical free, and use sustainable practices that build and enrich the soil. We have a personal relationship with them, and have visited their farms -- so can personally attest to their farming practices. Most of our fruits as well -- with the exception of the bananas. We purchase organic or fair trade from the local distribution center. Our food related work focuses on building our produce distribution to increase economic opportunity for minority and under-resourced farmers; incubation of Mandela Foods Cooperative (yes, it is opening SOON!); and our youth led leadership programs directed by West Oakland Youth Standing Empowered (WYSE) who work on healthy living and creating positive community change -- they are leading a program to help corner store owners improve their offerings of fresh produce.
                  Please feel free to stop by our office at 1364 7th Street in West Oakland, or call me at 510-433-0993 for more information about our work.
                  I hope you will continue to enjoy the "fruits and vegetables" of our labor!

                  1. Mini is right. It was a picnic table and one (nice) guy. It's not all organic or local. There were bananas and two bags of non-organic grapes from Chile for $2 a pound. I bought one. The broccoli looked great, so did the huge cabbage. There was a bowl of lemons and a basket of potatoes. As rworange said, the sugar is a very good deal.

                    1. Wow, great info. I'm definitely checking this out when I'm in Berkeley again.