The farmers' market established by Slow Food Riga in Latvia's capital will soon become an Earth Market, joining the growing network of markets run according to Slow Food's philosophy by following a set of principles that guarantee the availability of good, clean and fair food and support a short production chain.
Launched in 2006, the Bazars Berga Bazara farmers' market quickly became a popular attraction, with more than 50 produce stalls set up along a pedestrian passageway that winds through the historical centre. Once a residential and commercial complex built between 1887 and 1900, the area once served as a location for shops and workshops. Abandoned during the Soviet occupation, the development has since been returned to its original owners and carefully renovated.
The quality products at the market are sold directly to local residents by small-scale producers at fair prices and with guaranteed environmentally sustainable production methods. Local specialties available include rhubarb juice and jams made from sea-buckthorn, an acidic wild berry long used throughout the Baltic, as well as artisan cheeses and beers and a wide variety of seasonal fresh produce. Several Terra Madre food communities also participate, from the producers of birch juice to the small-scale cheesemakers still dedicated to artisanal production of Janu Sier, a goat's milk cheese spiced with caraway. The cheese is named after St. John's Day, the longest day of the year and one of the country's major holidays.
Bazars Berga Bazara also features a popular street-food stand, run by Martins Ritins, Slow Food Riga convivium leader and an internationally renowned chef who together prepare sandwiches and irresistible sweets, made using ingredients from the market. And in a country where it is practically impossible to find eggs that are not from industrial farms, Mary's egg stall is considered by locals to be a small miracle. This elderly lady has become a symbol of the market, selling eggs from her own hens and geese, which she raises free range outdoors and calls by name.
Latvia today is strongly cosmopolitan. While few still work full-time in agriculture, many still own their own plot of land in the countryside. Alongside the Latvian majority (just 57%) live Russians (30% of the population), Belarusians, Poles and Jews. The Bazars Berga Bazara paints a rich picture of the gastronomic production of this small country, straddled between modernity and rural traditions, providing an important link for the largely urban population to their roots.
Perhaps it's the scent of roasted meat in the air, the orderly vitality in the passageway or the lack of cars and noisy traffic, but visitors move very comfortably through the market. Many are regulars, and for some it has become a meeting place, where they can sip an artisanal beer in the company of friends or enjoy the spring sunshine as they move from one stand to the next.
Many of the market's producers will be at the Bazars Berga Bazara stand at the next Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy in October this year.
The Bazars Berga Bazara is held from 9 am to 3 pm every second and fourth Saturday of the month in Berga Bazars, a complex on Elizabetes Iela in the center of Riga.
For more information on the Bazars Berga Bazara:
Dace Tomsone, Slow Food Riga: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele Rumiz, Slow Food International: email@example.com