As the 2023 season closed, we lost two pivotal figures in the history of what is now Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets.

Dr. Alan Kapuler, known to many as Mushroom, was an internationally known plant breeder who with his wife, Linda, was a founding vendor at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market in 1991. He died on Nov. 11, just weeks before the Nov. 27 passing of Ron Spisso, our first manager and the organizer of the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market Association, which became Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets.

Mushroom and Ron came from very different places and disciplines, yet their relationship spanned decades – uninterrupted even after Ron became a small business adviser for Oregon Coast Community College.

They arrived in Corvallis within a few years of one another, and both passed away in November of 2023. They both cared for the betterment of their community and had high regard for one another.

Ron also became a mentor to one of Mushroom’s daughters, who is currently a vendor. Dylana Kapuler and her partner Mario DiBenedetto carry on her father’s work in new ways as Peace Seedlings.

Born In Brooklyn, NY, Mushroom graduated from Yale at 19 and went to graduate school in molecular biology and biochemistry. In the 1970s, he learned to garden on a commune in Oregon’s Applegate Valley.

Mushroom became an advocate for public domain seeds and diversity in all things. He founded his own seed company (Peace Seeds) and was research director for Seeds of Change, based in New Mexico.

Mushroom’s passions included gardens and small farms, plant taxonomy, seed saving, biodiversity, the web of life, orchids and also visual art, in the form of his distinctive paintings.

In an interview with Cooking Up a Story, Mushroom said he moved his family to Corvallis to access the Oregon State University Library’s information on world flora. Dylana notes this was in 1986, not long before her birth the following year.

Ron grew up in New Jersey and took over his family deli at Barnagat Light, when he was about 30. Over time he made the deli a community gathering place – not coincidentally one of the attributes he valued in farmers’ markets.

Ron Spisso arrived in 1990 to get an MBA at Oregon State. There was a Wednesday farmers’ market at the Benton County Fairgrounds, but the nearest Saturday farmers’ market was in Albany. When the existing market association said it did not want to hold another market, he collaborated with small farmers who wanted this opportunity. The Saturday market opened June 15, 1991. The Kapulers were there.

He landed a modest lottery-funded state grant to start the new market association, which also served as a case study for many of Ron’s MBA class projects.

Although Ron’s New Jersey accent raised eyebrows for a few locals, he and Carol slipped right into Willamette Valley culture. They bought a house in Alsea from Rolf and Janet Hagen, founders of The Thyme Garden, which joined the market in 1995.

He remained a market customer and kept in contact with many early Corvallis vendors still at markets. Recently Ron began volunteering with the Alsea Hope Grange – yet another connection to small Oregon agriculture.