Thursday, March 04, 2010

Growing Pains at Portland Farmers' Market?

With more than 40 farmers' markets in the Portland metro area and more in almost every community statewide, Oregon has become a national model for establishing a direct linkage from farm to table. A recent report found that farmers' markets have had a collective impact on the region's economy of more than $17 million.

The Portland Farmers' Market, while announcing the closure of its Ecotrust location at the end of last season, is opening two new markets this year, one downtown in Pioneer Courthouse Square and another in NW at 23rd and Savier. It's also increasing its footprint on Saturdays at the market at PSU, spreading out to include the block directly south and relocating vendors to the perimeter, opening the area in the center for music, picnicking and just plain hanging out.

Doubling their space will only add 25 more stalls for a total of 120 separate vendors, the point of the expansion being to decrease the crush created by too many people crammed into too little space. As might be expected with an effort this ambitious, however, rumors have been flying about who's in and who's out and reports of some bumps in the road on the way to opening day.

As was reported on, Morgan Brownlow's Tails & Trotters will be a vendor at the PSU market after all, after an initial report that they would not be included in the new mix. Executive Director Ann Forsthoefel said that Brownlow's hazelnut-finished pork will be filling in for the first part of the season until one of their other vendor's pigs are ready.

Forsthoefel was surprised to hear that Viridian Farms, the go-to vendor for the latest and greatest produce in the area, including their orgasmic pimientos de padron and the "it" greens of last year, the succulent known as glacier lettuce, was rumored to have been summarily downsized. On the contrary, she said, they were given more space in a coveted corner location. There was also some talk that the decision on which vendors would be included in the new markets opening this year had been delayed, but Forsthoefel said that only about 10 vendors at each of those markets were still undecided. She said that the focus right now is on getting the PSU market season launched, and that after it opens a final decision would be made on unfilled slots.

She added that they just found out this week that the construction on the south end of the new block, which was supposed to have been completed by mid-summer, was at least eight weeks behind schedule. It has meant that the layout of the new space, as well as access points for load-in and load-out, has had to be reconfigured, but that all will be in place and ready to go by opening day. Check the website for a schematic of the new layout of the market, with an interactive map of vendor locations to follow in the near future.

You can count on finding the market opening its eighteenth season on Mar. 20 at PSU, methinks with even more anticipation than usual.

Details: Portland Farmers' Market, Saturdays starting on Mar. 20 at Portland State University in the South Park Blocks between SW Hall & SW Montgomery.

No comments: