Our friends at Refuge Gardens, a program of Mercy Corps Northwest, connect recent refugees with the land, supplies and skills they need in order to improve their livelihoods through small-scale farming. Later this season, you can visit their booth at the PSU and Shemanski Park Markets, where the farmers sell their crops.  In the meantime, read more below to learn about the program and how you can help support it.

By Seth Belber, Program Manager, Refuge Gardens

From farm...

From farm…

Did you know that Portland welcomes 1,000 refugees into its city limits each year? Mercy Corps Northwest’s Refuge Gardens provides these families with an opportunity to integrate and build healthy lives within our community.

Through our program, families receive access to land and farm training. They grow and market seasonal produce, which provides financial stability and access to healthy food grown without synthetic inputs of any kind.

There are many ways you can help support this program:

CSA SUBSCRIPTION: Receive a weekly box of fresh, local, seasonal vegetables, while contributing to the well-being of refugee families from the Nepali Bhutanese and Karen Burmese community.  (Pick up locations include the Shemanski Park Farmers Market on Wednesdays).  Download the 2014 Refuge Gardens CSA Flyer>>

DONATE LAND: Much of this work is done on small plots donated by the community. If you have an unused parcel of land and want to learn how to put it to use, contact Seth Belber at sbelber@mercycorpsnw.org.

...to market

…to market

GIVE: Individual contributions can make a huge difference.  Your donation will help purchase fertilizer, seeds, equipment, and other farming supplies.  Click here to make a donation>>

Thank you for your support!

Years ago, I remember reading a passage where an author (1), was recollecting how in his youth heDSC_0383 was so impoverished that sugar was a luxury and living in outpost far away from other fruits, he used to scour the sandy inclines next to railroad tracks with his brother for rhubarb poking through a dusting of snow. So desperate for the promise of warm weather and the taste of something sweet, they’d break off the stems and suck the juice from the stalks as trains roared by them.

I can’t look at rhubarb without feeling spoiled and being grateful for all my choices. The passage was also powerful enough to inspire me enough to bite into a stalk. Just once and I forever add sugar or honey and make a quick jam out of spring’s first sweet offering.

DSC_0003Now that were inching closer to berry season, we have a lot more things to satisfy a sweet tooth. Especially, if your willing to expand how you define sweet, last week the PSU market had sweet peas, asparagus, calcots and of course honey.

Starvation Alley is also rethinking sweetness. Washington’s only certified organic cranberry grower sells cold-pressed, undiluted cranberry juice. Full of flavor, the juice stands on it’s own without the addition of sweeteners or juice blends. Try it out, it might be the very thing for Easter brunch or depending on how modern your Seder is, it could replace the parsley on the table.

DSC_0017Speaking of Passover and Easter, Pine Mountain, Pono and Sexton Ranches can hook you up with brisket. Simon the Salmon man will be on hand at PSU with “not very many fish,” but enough to get the early risers set up. The Smokery has fish kippered and prepared for the holiday table. And if your joining a meal as a guest, PSU has pretty flowers, chocolates and wine/cider/mead to share.

A spate of markets open in May, but until the calendar flips, PSU is the only venue from Portland Farmers Market. 8:30-2 on Saturdays. Come visit us, bring a guest and load up on rhubarb and everything else the Northwest spring has to offer.

(1) I’m reasonably sure this was from John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers & Keepers, but my memory is in decline enough that I can’t guarantee that’s where the passage rests, but can promise, that is a book worth reading. 

For some, when they find themselves in a hole, just keep digging. When Starvation Alley finds IMG_20140301_094805themselves in a hole, they grow cranberries. While a cranberry bog isn’t a metaphorical hole, rather an acre or so of land, set just above the water table reinforced by earthen dikes, there should be some analogy akin to lemons and lemonade. If only cranberries were better understood, it would work as a trope better.

When people think about cranberries it revolves around two uses: If you are a traditionalist, cranberries, particularly relish, serves as an anchor of the holiday table. For the pluralistic, urban living populations, cranberries mean Cosmopolitans, in this case, the cocktail; possibly some other cocktail. Even with the average consumption up to 2.3 pounds per citizen, mostly in the form of juice, cranberries could use a higher profile, Starvation Alley is here to help with that.

IMG_20140120_160114In 2008, John and Debbie Oakes purchased 60 year old cranberry bogs on the Long Beach Peninsula, just across the Columbia from Astoria. In 2010, the Oakes’ son, Jared and his partner, Jessika Tantisook, took over management of the farm. Beginning with the 2011 growing season, Oakes and Tanitsook began the three year transition resulting in the farm becoming the only certified organic cranberry farm in Washington State and the closest organic grower to the Portland Metro Area.

The organic certification is just part of a new way of approaching a very old crop in the pacific NW. Starvation Alley doesn’t sweeten their product. Their cranberries are frozen, unthawed in small batches and cold pressed. This method allows for tangy, nuanced flavors to shine through, making what Starvation Alley’s Alana Kambury calls, “Garnet gold; a product that stands on it’s own without sweeteners, juices or diluting.”

On the business side, Tantisook and Oakes recently filed paperwork to become a Social Purpose Corporation. So few people grow cranberries organically there isn’t a large repository of knowledge, data or best practices. Starvation Alley is working to change that, along with the SPC designation, they’re helping with two area farms transition to organic methods and they’re teaming up with Bainbridge Graduate Institute, where 3 of the Starvation’s team members earned MBAs in Sustainable Systems. These partnerships allow the enterprise to share their knowledge, failures and successes; providing information so farmers can, according to Kambury, “improve their livelihoods while helping them make more environmentally and socially minded farming decisions.”

YarrowSince so little is known about cranberries, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the crop is not hydroponically grown. Cranberries develop just on land, the evergreen shrub the berries grow on actually needs moderately acidic soil to thrive, not water. Bogs are usually flooded for harvest, but not always, growers can dry harvest berries using an Edward Scissorshandsish rake. This method is highly labor intensive and not as photogenic – As a flooded bog is a photo composition waiting to happen: The berries are crimson, set off against opaque water and autumnal browning, the setting is the agricultural equivalent of a super model – just point and click and everything around the lens looks better. Starvation Alley employs a wet harvest. At Starvation Alley the fields are flooded twice, once early in the season for pest control and second time for harvest – ripe berries float to the surface where they are harvested.

So far their efforts have been well received. Edible Portland have nominated the farmers as Food Heroes. Starvation Alley’s juices can be found on the cocktail lists of many of the NW’s hotspots (keep track of where to get that pluralistic, urbane cocktail here) and with their appearance at the PSU Farmers Market (and soon the King Market), they’re able to share their passion and creative approach to cranberries with thousands of food lovers every week.

By Kelly Merrick

And so begins market season

And so begins market season

Springtime is my favorite time of year. I love it when the weather starts to warm up, the days get longer and the daffodils start peeking out of the ground. But I especially love it because it means a new farmers market season has just begun.

Every new season brings something to be excited about. And this year is no exception. The 2014 market season offers a lot to boast about, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things I am looking forward to at Portland Farmers Market this year:

Lovely creations from My Wreaths

Lovely creations from My Wreaths

1. Seeing some fresh faces. The PSU Market has 10 new vendors this year, offering up goods like bread, juice and spirits.
2. Checking out My Wreaths, a new venture by Kenyon Growers, a longtime flower vendor at the market. If you’ve been to the Portland State market this year, you probably saw their beautiful wreaths and other decorative branches. If you hesitated and didn’t stop by last week, you better hurry. They will only be selling the wreaths at PSU for March and April before they return in October.
3. Grabbing a bite to eat at every single one of the hot food vendors.
4. Visiting the neighborhood markets. I’ve got a summer packed full of weekend getaways, so that means I’ll get to visit the smaller neighborhood markets.
5. Volunteering at the information booth and at other fun market activities. Have you heard how much fun it is to volunteer at the market?
6. Attending my first Farmer’s Feast dinner. If this is something you’ve wanted to try too, you can check out the next dinner on April 25 (tonight’s Buckwheat dinner is sold out). It’s part of the Whole Grain Supper Series at Tabor Bread. If you’re interested, visit click here for more information.
7. Taste testing new and exciting foods, like the unique salt flavors with Jacobsen Salt Co. and the creatively cheesy creations available at Fraga Farms. Don’t be afraid to sample!

Plant starts at Sun Gold Farm

Plant starts at Sun Gold Farm

8. Buying my vegetable starts. Did you know many of the produce vendors sell vegetable starts? I suggest you look for them next time you’re out shopping. I bought my tomato starts from Sun Gold Farm last season and got some growing advice straight from Farmer Charlie himself!
9. Tapping my foot to market music. I love to grab a bite to eat in the middle of my shopping trip and sit down to enjoy the music floating through the market. Here’s who’ll be playing this Saturday.
10. Buying real, good, local food. Do I need to say any more?

What about you? What are you looking forward to this season at Portland Farmers Market?

By Deborah Pleva, Weinstein PR

psuOn Saturday, March 15, Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University returns for Season 23, promising locavores week after week of peak-of-the-season produce and other locally produced foods including baked goods, meats, cheeses, seafood and more.

More than 100 farmers, food producers and artisans will start the season off, and this number will grow to 120 vendors as the days get warmer and more local produce ripens.

In addition to many familiar farmers and producers, Portland Farmers Market welcomes 10 fresh new faces to the vendor mix. The list below includes new vendors that will be making appearances at the PSU market, plus other weekly market locations where they will be selling their wares.

  • Fairlight Farm – Gaston, OR – PSU – Specializing in 33 varieties of heirloom apples, many not found in the grocery store. applesandart.blogspot.com
  • Greenleaf Juicing Company – Portland, OR – PSU, Kenton, King, Buckman, Shemanski – 100% pressed fresh daily USDA organic fruit and vegetable juices. www.greenleafjuice.com
  • House Spirits Distillery – Portland, OR – PSU, King – This distillery incorporates old-world philosophy into its products for the savvy new world palate. They offer well-balanced and flavorful spirits that embody complexity and timelessness. www.housespirits.com
  • Merry Meat Pie Company – Portland, OR – PSU, King – Merry Meat Pie Company offers premium and diverse meat pies.
  • Minto Island Growers – Salem, OR – PSU – Certified organic, diversified vegetable, blueberry and tea farmers. www.mintogrowers.com
  • Mio’s Delectables – Portland, OR – PSU, Pioneer Courthouse Square – Mio’s Delectables offers hand-crafted pastries perfected with French tradition and Japanese refined simplicity. miosdelectables.com
  • New Deal Distillery – Portland, OR – PSU, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Northwest, King, Buckman, Shemanski – This craft distillery offers hand-made vodka, gin, ginger liqueur, locally-inspired coffee liqueur, small-batch rums and infused vodkas with a distinctive culinary flare. www.newdealdistillery.com
  • Ole World Oils – Ritzville, WA – PSU, King, Northwest – They produce, press, and bottle camelina oil, a cold pressed, naturally raw product very high in omega 3s and vitamin E. Camelina is an ancient oilseed crop and is a versatile oil that can be used anywhere olive oil is used. www.camelinagold.com
  • Oregon Aqua – Portland, OR – PSU, Buckman – A local and completely environmentally sustainable aquaculture farm, raising Oregon White Leg Prawns without the use of GMO feed, hormones, antibiotics or chemical treatments.
  • Starvation Alley – Long Beach, WA – PSU, King – This organic cranberry farm and juice company, located on the Long Beach Peninsula in Southwest Washington, crafts delicious unsweetened, raw cranberry juice. In the fall, it will add fresh cranberries to its Market offerings. www.starvationalley.com


See you all on Saturday!

By Kelly Merrick

Here in Portland we’re lucky because we have an abundance of farmer’s markets. In fact, with the exception of a few weeks during the holidays, hardly a week goes by without a market.

But there are a few times a year when market staff, volunteers and vendors get a little break. In fact, there is just one last market left to stock up on food from your favorite vendors at our Winter Market at Shemanski Park.

After the last Winter Market for the season, there will be a two week hiatus and then the PSU Market will reopen on March 15th, so be sure to stop by this Saturday, February 22, from 10am to 2pm to stock up on the farm fresh produce and other goods you’ll need to get yourself through the next few weeks.

Once the market reopens at PSU, staff, volunteers and vendors won’t take a break until winter, which means there will be nearly nine months of activities, great food and fantastic music for market-goers.

Having been a volunteer for a full season now, I have had a glimpse into the work that goes into coordinating all of the details, and let me tell you that market staff work really hard to make the market the fabulous place it is. And the truth is, they couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers.

So as we approach the busy season, I encourage you to sign up to be a volunteer and help support the wonderful programming already available.

Here are some of the ways I have lent a hand and how you can too:

  • Take a shift at the information booth and help sell merchandise, answer customer questions and manage the veggie valet
  • Sign up to help with customer counts and do some people watching at the same time
  • Get to know Portland chefs by volunteering to co-host Chef in the Market
  • Assist with the Kid’s Cook in the Market activities and prepare fresh meals with some of Portland’s junior chefs-in-the-making
  • Get your hands dirty with kids and adults during the Halloween pumpkin carving contest
  • Refine your writing skills and contribute to the market’s blog
  • And if you’re really lucky, they may even let you ring the opening bell!
This is me ringing the opening bell!

This is me ringing the opening bell!

If you’re interested in volunteering, it’s easy to get involved. Just click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to contact Abby Warren, volunteer coordinator for Portland Farmers Market.

Market Soup for the Soul

By Kelly Merrick

This time of year, when the air is chilly, the rain is falling and the wind is blowing, my favorite meal to prepare is by far soup. There’s just something about a big bowl of soup that warms me up the way no other type of food can.

The great thing about soup is that you don’t need a recipe to make it. All you need are some basic ingredients and some time to chop up the veggies or protein you want to be the star of your soup.

Luckily, the market provides the perfect place to find the ingredients for whatever soup you want to create. In fact, if you plan it right, you can find everything you need without having to step into a grocery store.

Keeping that in mind, here are some of my favorite market combinations that make excellent soup:

If you’re a veggie lover:

  • You might consider making a kale and potato soup,

    Waiting to become soup

    as both are at the market in abundance this time of year. My favoriteversion of the soup includes sautéing chopped mushrooms as garnish. Winters Farms, Raymond Kuenzi Farm and GroundworkOrganics and Springwater Farm should have the key ingredients for this soup.

  • Try out a squash and apple soup. My favorite squash is butternut, but if you can’t find that variety, delicata or acorn works too. If you can’t find those either, ask one of the vendors for a good substitution and they’ll be happy to help. For extra creaminess, puree the soup and add some grated goat cheese on top just before serving. Kiyokawa Family Orchards, Packer Orchards, Groundwork Organics and Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese should have the key ingredients for this soup.

If you’re a carnivore:

  • Throw together hamburger soup, with a variety of veggies, like celery, potatoes, onion and carrots. I like to bulk up soup like this by adding a grain of some type. My current favorites are millet and wheat berries. Gee Creek Farms, Pine Mountain Ranch, DeNoble Farms and Greenville Farms should have the key ingredients for this soup.
  • Experiment with a chickpea and chorizo soup that features lots of garlic and spinach. A loaf of bread and some goat cheese would complement the soup well. Gee Creek Farms, Tails & Trotters and Fressen Artisan Bakery should have the key ingredients for this soup.

While you’re mulling over these soup ideas, there are a few other non-soup related things you can find at the market this week. Cascade Naturals and Honey Mama’s will both be at the market for their monthly visit. But if you’re looking for some pre-prepared fare from The Farmer’s Feast, you’ll have to wait another week. Chef Kathryn Yeomans will be away preparing for their special truffle dinner that evening. If you just can’t go another week without some of Kathryn’s tasty food, there are a few seats left and menu and reservation info can be found on their Facebook page here.

Now that we’re done with official business, back to the soup. The first step to making a successful pot of soup, in my humble opinion, starts with the soup base. For a few years now I’ve been making my own vegetable stock from scraps leftover from previous meals, and I highly encourage you to do the same. Not only does it taste better, but it has no preservatives, unhealthy amounts of sodium and it’s practically free!

Here’s how you can do it yourself:


Making your own stock is a cinch!

1. Start saving!
As you chop your vegetables throughout the week, save the scraps and store them in a one-gallon bag in the freezer. Once you have a full bag, you’re good to go!

2. Boil, boil, toil and trouble
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil add your veggie scraps (no thawing needed) and let it return to a boil.

3. Simmer and season

Let it simmer for about 25 minutes.

4. Strain
Carefully scoop out the large veggie chunks with a slotted spoon.  Once you’ve removed the large pieces, use a fine-meshed strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth and pour the rest of the broth into the strainer and into another pot.

5. Cool it
Let the stock cool to room temperature.

6. Store it
Pour it into freezer safe containers, label and store.

7. Enjoy it
Thaw your stock 1-2 days before you need it to make one of your amazing soup recipes with ingredients procured from the market.

If you’d like more complete instructions for how to make your own vegetable stock, you can check out the recipe on my blog, Kelly’s Sustainable Life.

Happy soup making!


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