Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Market Watch: People's Farmers' Market

"It ain't over till it's over."
- Yogi Berra

For my last Market Watch column of the season I decided to go to Portland's only year-round weekly farmers' market at People's Co-op. The Hillsdale market does brave the winter months as well, but only twice a month. So whazzup widdat? Are the West-siders too wimpy? Too enamored of sitting and reading the Times with their French press on a Sunday morning?

Come to think of it, I've never seen anyone at a market with a five-pound turnip the likes of which Suleyman Idrisov was displaying at his Hayat Farm booth. But you'll find him and other hardy souls keeping the farmers' market flame burning till spring brings everyone else back onto the scene.

Details: People's Farmers' Market. Wednesdays, 2-7 pm. 3029 SE 21st Ave., between Powell and Division.

5 comments:

Cathy said...

Hi Kab - I've left a small token of appreciation for you on my blog. I always look forward to your posts about what is going on around the city. You have one terrific blog. Thanks.

kab said...

Gee, thanks, Cathy...I'm blushing!

Anonymous said...

Disappointed by the French press coffee and New York Times jab re Hillsdale Farmers' Market. There are 64 +/- farmers' markets in the state. Of these, only two run all year, People's and Hillsdale. Hillsdale started its winter market in 2003, People's a bit earlier. The support that people in Southwest Portland have shown for the market is wonderful. Willingness of customers to brave the weather has never been a factor in our sales. Even in the bitter cold and driving rain, people are there. In the last two years, our average per market sales have been higher in the winter than in the summer.

There are some good reasons why the twice monthly market makes sense.

First, there is the wear and tear on the farmers. It takes roughly three to four times the effort to harvest winter produce. Try slogging around in the mud and rain, sometimes snow. You come in at the end of the day chilled to the bone, hamstrings aching. Some days, we change into dry clothes no less than three times. Not to whine, but the effort we expend is real and substantial.

Second, there is the matter of the working day. Not only is it harder to move around in the winter, our working day is truncated by the lack of daylight. At the peak of the summer, we have about 16 hours of daylight, and now it is down to seven. So not only are we operating at a lower efficiency, there is less time to work. Also, if the temperature drops below freezing, we have to wait until the field thaws before picking greens.

Third, the harvested vegetables take more time to prepare for market. Muddy roots and greens are the norm for winter farmers. They take more work to clean.

Fourth, a bad frost can really set things back for growers like us who sell exclusively field grown vegetables. The longer break between harvests gives us necessary flexibility for harvesting around the weather challenges. Growing crops for the winter is vastly more complicated than summer crops.

Finally, winter vegetables are far less perishable than those of summer. Freshly harvested kale will last ten days or so, and still be fresher than the supermarket offerings. Roots hold well, too.

If you were to poll the Hillsdale Farmers' Market community about the possibility of a weekly market in the winter, I can assure you, the customers would think it is a great idea, and the volunteers and vendors would rebel. It is a hard season to be a vendor or a volunteer. We leave the farm in the dark, around 6:55, and return in the dark, around 4:45. We spend almost eight hours on the cold pavement. Volunteers also devote between six and eight hours to the effort. Some of us, in fact, have been ragging on Eamon [Molloy, market manager at Hillsdale. - KAB] to reduce the winter markets to three hours.

We look forward to the winter market for the challenge and diversity it presents. However, we would have little interest in a weekly winter market, and would simply focus on restaurants. Call us wimps, but six seasons into the cause, there are still just two markets that run through the winter -- People's and Hillsdale. I believe Hillsdale has a much deeper selection of vendors because of its kinder schedule. If it was just a matter of people tearing themselves from French press coffee and the Times, I suspect the state would be fairly cluttered with winter markets.

Maybe you should be marveling at the fact that there are some farmers and markets volunteers willing to indulge Portland's appetite for local foods through the winter.

- Anthony Boutard, Ayers Creek Farm

kab said...

Oh, my...didn't mean to hit a nerve, but apparently I did and I apologize. Especially to you!

I was just trying to poke some good-natured fun at the eastside vs. westside competition and not criticize anyone.

As I said in my article on the winter markets from last year: "Now, I know the phrase 'winter farmers' markets' sounds like an oxymoron on the scale of 'open secret' or 'original copies,' but all you have to do is bundle up a bit, grab your market bag and you'll discover, like I did, a whole bunch of people who think this is actually fun, not to mention a way to eat fresher and more seasonally."

But you make some excellent points. Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Did you taste the turnips?

OMG! I eat them raw all the time.

No one and I mean no one grows roots like him. Its amazing.