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10:45 a.m. Wednesday: Best Natural Foods Store 

Farmer Joe's Produce & Market Place

Bigger is not better when it comes to shopping healthy. While searching for a spot and circling around the parking lots of Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl, avoiding auto- and pedestrian-collision by a hair, you could be having an intimate and multicultural family shopping experience at Farmer Joe's in Oakland's Laurel district. Joe and Diana Tam are the mom and pop behind this lovable corner store turned very viable alternative to the other, more popular (and overcrowded) natural-foods markets. If you make it past the abundant, fresh, and varied produce selection with room in your basket, you'll find the usual natural, organic health-food suspects at reasonable prices. At Farmer Joe's, the question is not whether you'll find your Tom's of Maine toothpaste, your Amy's cheeseless frozen pizza, or your favorite bulgur or spelt cereal; it's a matter of how pleasantly your time passes in the parking lot, in the aisles, and at the checkout counters. The Tams and their staff are consistently present, helpful, and friendly. Never again must you sacrifice your immediate shopping comforts for the benefits of natural foods.

Readers' Pick: Whole Foods


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