Apr 212015

1978: Albany Farmers’ Market opens on Water Ave. parking lot. It’s the first open-air farmers’ market of the post World War II era in Oregon at the time, but the Newport Farmers’ Market opens within a few months.

1981: The Mid-Willamette Growers Association, which runs the Albany Farmers’ Market, opens a Wednesday farmers’ market in Corvallis near the downtown fire station. Community Services Consortium helps get the new market off the ground.

1982-1987: The Wednesday market shuffles among a number of locations including the south Riverfront and various spots near 9th Street.

1987: The Oregonian reports that there are 12 farmers’ markets in statewide, two of which are in Albany and Corvallis. See http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/farmers_markets/

1988: The Wednesday market, still the only farmers’ market in Corvallis, settles at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Although it moves around that facility seasonally, the market experiences a period of stability.

1990-91: Farmers wanting a Saturday venue in Corvallis, unable to persuade the MWGA to open another market, start the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market Association. The new market opens in 1991 on Madison between 1st and 2nd streets.

1992-1998: Complaints about parking lead city officials to shift the Saturday farmers’ market for 1992 into a parking lot on the Riverfront. As the market grows, it shifts north a block to a larger parking lot. Other businesses start to open nearby, and momentum builds to rejuvenate the area.

1997-1998: The two farmers’ markets run by the MWGA have outgrown their informal management structure. Farmers and community leaders urge CSFMA to run all three markets under one organization. CSFMA is renamed Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets.

1999-2002: The Saturday farmers’ market in Corvallis shifts to the City Hall parking lot for a period of Riverfront construction. Another short-term move is needed in 2002 because of construction at the bus terminal. The Saturday farmers’ market heads to 2nd & B for a year — coincidentally where the Wednesday market operated from 1982 to 1984.

2003: The Saturday farmers’ market returns to the north end of the riverfront but as a street closing — as it is today.

2007: The Albany Farmers’ Market moves from Water Ave. to the City Hall parking lot and a portion of 4th Avenue, where it is today. Albany Farmers’ market is the oldest market of its kind in the state. Unlike the Corvallis markets, it moved just once.

2009-10: the Wednesday farmers’ market leaves the Benton County Fairgrounds for the south Riverfront. At the suggestion of the newly created Downtown Commission, the market operates from 3 to 7 pm. A sewer project in 2011 requires the Wednesday market to move into a portion of the Saturday site. Once the sewer construction is over, market organizers decide to stay.

Apr 102015

Opening day in both cities is April 18. We will accept a note from your boss if you have to work Saturdays, but otherwise we expect to see you in one or both cities every Saturday morning through November 21.

The Wednesday farmers’ market starts April 22 in Corvallis. Spooked by Saturday crowds? This is your day!

Either way, the farmers’ markets are the most fun you can have legally while acquiring healthy, local food and hanging out friends and family.

Geek alert: It’s one of those years where we have two anniversaries ending in 5! The Wednesday market started in 1981, and the Saturday farmers’ market in Corvallis started in 1991. So it’s our 35th and 25th anniversary season. Albany FM started in 1978, so we’ll have a 40th anniversary season in 2017.

Dec 172014

The indoor version of the Independence Riverview Market has one more market this year at the Elks’ Club on Main Street in Independence from 9 am to 2 pm on Dec. 20.

The Lane County Farmers’ Market’s Holiday Market will be running both Saturday and Sunday Dec. 20-21 at the Lane Events Center.

The Corvallis Indoor Winter Market will be open again on Jan. 17, 9 am to 1 pm at the Benton County Fairgrounds. They do have a web page, but it’s often less current than their FaceBook page, which you can access even if you don’t do FaceBook.

Outdoor markets will be open again starting April 18.

Oct 122014

Note: This post was originally published as a Marketfriends email on Oct. 9.

The campaign about Measure 92 has caused a few customer questions worth answering here.

One of our farmers reported getting asked if the measure would hurt family farmers like her. Because this was a farm that follows organic practices, she was a bit taken aback. She asked me to explain market guidelines about GMOs and related matters.

The proposed labeling requirement will not affect most farmers’ market vendors directly. That is because of choices they and CAFM have made prior to Measure 92, which I’ll explain here.

This is not to say that every last one of our 140 or so vendors agrees with what I’ll say here and elsewhere about GMOs. But generally I think they’d want our customers to know at least this much.

In 2010 we added some non-GMO language to CAFM guidelines. We knew most farmers’ market customers had non-GMO expectations long before 2010. But there were no GMO seeds on the market for the types of crops sold at farmers’ markets.

Leading into that season I learned that GMO sweet corn would become available in places where growers might buy seed, and GMO weaner pigs were coming, I brought the issue to our board, which is mostly farmers.

What we chose was a ban (not just labeling). Here’s what it says in guidelines:

CAFM now prohibits its vendors from knowingly selling products grown from GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds or animals that are themselves genetically modified. Vendors also should be alert for situations in which their crops could be contaminated by GMO pollen. Until recently there were few GMO market products available to growers — either plant or animal, but this is now starting to change.

The board deliberated and chose not to address GMO animal feed at that time. As non-GMO feed becomes available, we could consult with meat and poultry vendors and revisit that issue.

Measure 92 does not require labeling of animal products that ingested feed containing GMOs. You are free to ask each meat and poultry farmer at the market what they do. Which is much more info than you’ll get at the grocery store in most cases.

What you would learn by talking to our meat vendors is that small farmers are trying to evolve their feed away from soybeans and corn, which are now largely grown from GMO seeds. Cows can be entirely grass-fed, but other meat animals need additional feed. So the GMO avoiders are working to find other affordable sources of protein.

And no, they cannot just grow all their own feed and store it. Ask one of our farmers how many tons of feed they use a year. (Psst: We need more people growing field peas in Oregon.)

Oddly, the lack of animal feed coverage is being used as an argument against the measure. (It is probable that the opponents also would be unhappy if animal feed were covered.)

Perhaps animal feed could and should be added to the law later — that would ultimately increase availability of non-GMO feed. Measures can be amended in the legislature or by later measures.

A surprising argument I read in the Capital Press was Katie Fast with the Oregon Farm Bureau worrying aloud about small farmers who use the Farm Direct law to produce jam and preserves. Yes, they will have to find a non-GMO sweetener or label the sugar as GMO, and there may be a period with less than optimal access to non-GMO sugar.

The strange part is that I personally witnessed Katie Fast testifying in 2011 against the part of the Farm Direct bill that gave these farmers the right to make the jams in the first place. It was sugar beet growers who decided to go GMO and not save seed so they’d have an option to reverse course — not our small fruit growers.

Farmers who label organic or non-GMO are largely for the labeling measure even though it can be argued they’ll lose a competitive advange. If the measure changes practices, there could be lessened risk for genetic and herbicide drift. But mostly these farmers will benefit from consumer expectations bending in their direction.

As you consider this issue, I ask you to think beyond TV commercials and even beyond the question of whether GMOs are safe to ingest.

Besides the large question of whether you are allowed to know what you are feeding your family when it’s not farm direct, you also may be concerned with:

  • protecting the health of farmworkers, pollinators and beneficial fungi and bacteria in the soil;
  • slowing the rate of pesticide and herbicide resistance;
  • or addressing the inbalance of power between farmers and and the companies who control seeds and chemical markets.
No matter how you plan to vote, make sure you are registered. The last day for that is October 14. Here is the secretary of state’s page on registration.