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Motivations are comprehensible

By Kimberlee Keala Bortfield Special to the Daily Planet
Friday September 14, 2001

Two weeks ago, Carl Rosato's booth at the Berkeley Farmers' Market was filled with peaches. By last Saturday, Rosato had pruned his peach trees, and the trimmings were stacked next to a sign that read: “Great wood for barbecues, the fireplace, and for warming your heart with the memories of the summertime.” 

September is the beginning of the end for Rosato and others who sell their fruit at the more than 350 farmers' markets across the state. 

While it is peak season with both summer and fall fruit vendors crowding into the open markets, the number of farmers will soon fall off and the produce will change. Berkeley’s market has about 50 vendors and 3,800 people a day during the summer months, but by December the numbers drop. 

For Rosato, who attends 12 markets a week from June to September earning at least $20,000, the winter brings plenty of work. Once the market circuit is over, his projects begin. 

“There's a zillion projects to do,” Rosato said. “I have to fix the tractor and set up a new cold-storage system.” 

When Rosato is not working on his 15-acre, Woodleaf Farm in Oroville, he is consulting or teaching organic farming at Butte College. He also supplements his income by growing persimmons and mandarin oranges, and is interested in starting apples and pears. 

This winter, Rosato will plant 12 acres of cacao in Ecuador, which will be made into chocolate. 

“I do okay,” Rosato said of his various jobs. “It's not an easy way to get a retirement plan.” 

At the Star Valley Farm booth on Saturday, Kyra Brown had crates of sugarplums, dried apricots and bottles of apricot juice. Brown said she sells peaches, plums and apricots at four or five markets a week during the summer. Unsold fruit is then taken back to the Solano farm, dried in the sun or turned into juice, and resold. 

While the dried fruits and juice provide her with a year-round income, she said that she makes more money from the fresh fruit, especially from the apricots which peak in June. By November, she will be going to the market just once every other week. 

For Amy Foster of Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, however, September marked not the end but the beginning of her market circuit. Every Saturday from Labor Day weekend through December, she comes to the Berkeley Farmers’ Market to sell a variety of Asian pears and apples. Her method of generating interested customers – let them sample everything. 

“Some people never had Asian pears and apples before,” Foster stated. “And some people are always coming back, especially when the summer fruits are tapering off.” 

Once her off-season begins in January, Foster will prune trees, maintain the orchard floor, and ward off frost and insects. 

“There’s not much income in the winter except for juices and dried fruits,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s enough.”