Archive for the ‘From The Executive Director’ Category

By Trudy Toliver, Executive Director, Portland Farmers Market

Last week my job at Portland Farmers Market took me to Cleveland, Ohio. My first trip to Ohio turned out better than I was expecting. I visited a local farmers market as well as a bustling public market, and restaurants in downtown Cleveland and the Ohio City neighborhood served up some scrumptious meals. The occasion was a conference on public markets put on by Project for Public Spaces – a great chance to share ideas and learn how our markets can enhance communities.  I can barely wait three years for the next gathering.

In addition to meetings, we spent Saturday on a field trip.  Still attached to my past environmental career, I opted for a visit to the Cuyahoga National Park.  Countryside Conservancy runs a farmers market in the midst of the park.  It seemed so far away from a neighborhood, but they assured me it’s just minutes from Akron and the small crowd of shoppers verified local interest.

This park unit has reinstated farming into its boundaries.  Many of those farmers vend at this market.  I wandered among the stalls and enjoyed the tastings including artisan goat cheese from McKenzie Creamery.  Turns out, Jean McKenzie is the mother of Liz Alvis who owns Portland Creamery and vends at our NW and Pioneer Courthouse Square markets.  Small world.

I also visited the historical West Side Market, a public market in Ohio City.  Celebrating its centennial under the grand architecture of arched ceilings and a clock tower, the elegant market was jammed on Saturday with shoppers and meat from unknown sources. At the fruit and veggie hall next door you can get all the usual grocery store selection of pineapples, star fruit and stickered Washington apples – yet I know Ohio, home to Johnny Appleseed, has orchards.  As much as I want to see Washington growers do well, I want local food economies to thrive.

What is a public market, anyway?  How does it differ from a farmers market? The following public-sourced Wikipedia definition is a good way to look at public markets:

Public markets are markets where independent merchants can sell their products to the public. Typical products sold at public markets include fresh produce and baked goods, meats and dairy products, and various other food items and handcrafted goods. Public markets often emphasize foods, clothing, and artisanal products reflective of the ethnicities in their respective regions. They can also serve as popular venues for public events and busking. Public markets are distinct from farmers’ markets in that they often feature imported goods.

Many public markets in North America sprung up a century or so ago in food production and distribution districts (aka market districts).  Communities of today’s food producers, restaurants and residential dwellings have grown up around them since.  More recently developed markets often pick a desolate part of town in which to build with public funding incentives.  Markets draw other economic development and create healthy communities.

Travel, exchanging ideas, experiencing new ways of approaching the same issue are great ways to learn, but they are also great ways to help you see what you already have with fresh eyes.  My greatest take-away from this trip?  Never forget the broad-based value of markets as community gathering places. People go to markets for the sensual experience of smells, looks, touches, tastes and to mingle with people who may be different from them, but all have a love of food in common.  It’s important to have events, music, buskers and programming activities.  These anchor the market’s place in a neighborhood and brighten the shopper’s experience.

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By Trudy Toliver, Executive Director, Portland Farmers Market

I went home for lunch today.  That almost never happens. After the 12 minute drive I was scratching the chin of my wriggling pet while my husband stepped up grinning with curiosity.  He was probably thinking, oh, how sweet, she’s come home to see me.  No sense in squashing that notion.  I smiled back and said, have you had lunch?

Earlier, in the office at my computer, I started to get hungry, the happy-it’s-almost-lunchtime kind of hunger.  I knew what I was craving. Then I remembered what I had forgotten.  Oh, crud, last night’s ratatouille was still in the fridge at home.  I’d forgotten to pack my treasured meal.

Eggplant, pre-ratatouille. Photo by Allison Jones.

Always better the second and third days, I make a big batch of ratatouille so it lasts the week. Harbingers of the richest harvest and the coming of autumn, ratatouille ingredients are each my favorite of the year. I know, don’t rush summer, but it takes hot days to ripen peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.

Annually, when my best girlfriends and I gather we make the stew.  One year on a trip to Idaho we bought the riches from a Sun Valley organic farmer.  Another time they were found at the farm stand in Sisters, Oregon.  This year, as most often for me, every stitch of it came from vendors at Portland Farmers Market or my own garden.

You’ll find dozens of recipes for ratatouille, a classic dish of the Provence region of France.  Some suggest cooking each of the vegetables separately then stirring them together in the end.  That’s too much work for me.  Although, cooking the eggplant separately is worthwhile.  Try sautéing it dusted with flour, it browns beautifully, holds its body and doesn’t hog all of the olive oil.  I’ve adapted this recipe from one I found 11 years ago in Yoga Journal.

(serves 4-6)

1 eggplant, about 1 pound
2-4 tablespoons flour, optional
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large sweet red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or a few fresh sprigs
1 teaspoon dried oregano or a few fresh sprigs
black pepper and/or 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I love this addition)
½ cup red wine or dry white wine or stock
1 pound or about 4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped, skins removed optional
sea salt
¼ cup fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated asiago or parmesan cheese, strong gouda works too

  1. Cut the eggplant into rectangular cubes about ½ x 2 inches. Toss with a couple tablespoons of flour and a dash of sea salt.
  2. Preheat a large skillet; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Make sure it’s hot so the eggplant sizzles when added. Sauté for 6-8 minutes until browned and softened.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot skillet and sauté onions and peppers until they are soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini, garlic, tomatoes and sprinkle with sea salt and smoked paprika.  Mix and cook another 4 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano and your guess of black pepper.
  5. Keep scraping the edges and bottom of the pan to incorporate the flavors. Add the wine or stock turn down the heat.  Cook a little longer if you want softer veggies.
  6. Add the eggplant, mix all together and check the seasoning. Remove the herb sprigs or leave it to your eaters. Serve topped with fresh basil and cheese.

Leftovers are better with a little more wine or stock added to the pan.  After my warm stewy lunch, I grabbed a handful of blueberries and an apricot for dessert.

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By Trudy Toliver, Executive Director, Portland Farmers Market

Recently,  I spoke at a conference on healthy aging for boomers called Enjoy the Journey. Most of the audience was already farmers market shoppers – but they learned some new tips and were eager for more with questions afterwards.  Here are ten reasons to make shopping at a farmers market part of your life.

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Reason number…

  1. It’s a community – Shopping for food can be a chore – or it can be a splendid, outdoor experience in a colorful friendly environment. Studies show that you’re 10 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation at a farmers market than at a regular grocery store. Come by yourself and make some new friends or make a day of it with family or friends. One Saturday I noticed a pair of white-haired ladies in the mid-morning watching the chef demonstration at our PSU Market, then I saw them shopping and later they were still there chatting and giggling into the afternoon over lunch.
  2. Get to know the face behind your food – Remember when a family knew their butcher and their baker? At a farmers market you can get to know the people who grow, raise, bake, preserve and prepare your food. You can learn their names where they do their work and what life is like for them. And they get to know you too, remember you and your favorite choices.
  3. Try something new – Ever get tired of the same ole same ole? It wouldn’t hurt ya to try something new. My goal for new this year is to serve-up kohlrabi, first I learned to spell it.  Several farm stalls offer it in two shades, purple or white. They also have recipes for how to cook it, so grab the recipe card when you pick up your kohlrabi. Recipes for all kinds of unusual and familiar foods are available at many vendors’ booths.  There are also lots on our website.
  4. Play or learn something – I mentioned those ladies who I saw at the chef’s cooking demonstration, we’ll that’s not all we’ve got. We regularly have food tastings sprinkled about a market, bingo for seniors at the NW market, kid’s cooking classes, live music, special holiday events – like a costume parade near Halloween and lots more. If you have grandchildren, any of our markets is a great place to take them for a safe, fun way to spend a few hours. See our website for event details.
  5. Have a meal – Sometimes shopping for food makes one hungry.  If you’re not hungry when you get there, the smell of what’s cooking may change that. So, bring your shopping bag, then come early for breakfast or stay for lunch!  Most farmers markets have hot food vendors and places to sit and eat.  Many of those vendors source their ingredients from local farmers and serve it up fresh to you.
  6. Get some exercise – walk to your neighborhood market or walk around it a few times when you get there.  Do a preview-walk; you’ll see more when you’re not looking for anything specific. Bring a rolling cart to push home your treats or carry it for a little weight training.
  7. Buy in bulk to save – I’m still eating berries in my morning yogurt from last season.  I buy when there are plenty and the price is right then seal and freeze them to enjoy year round. Orchard fruits, pickling vegetables, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and more can be preserved or cooked and frozen to enjoy later.  Buying when food is at the peak of its season is the time to get the best price. Shopping around at the market is another way to save, each farm sets their own prices and they can differ. You might even be surprise to know – that we have valet tables.  At the PSU market for example, you can safely leave your flat of food at our information booth then drive up to put them in your car.
  8. Get more for your money – If you participate in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) or Senior Farm Direct Nutrition vouchers – come to a market. All markets in the region accept SNAP and many farms honor vouchers.  Our Buckman, King and NW markets offer a program called Fresh Exchange that will match your SNAP purchase dollar for dollar up to $7. A great way to increase your buying power.
  9. Eat seasonally – Primal man, to whom biologically we are nearly identical, ate seasonally for thousands of years. As Americans, we’ve come to expect tomatoes and cucumbers all year round because the grocery stores import them from as far as Ecuador. In the NW tomatoes are ripe July through September.  Gorge on them fresh in the summer and save winter for and root vegetables and dark leafy greens. Eating seasonally and locally reduces your carbon footprint too.
  10. Take care of business – Just buying locally makes a big difference. They say that every $1 spent at a farmers market boosts the local economy with $1.78.  That’s a pretty good return on your investment. You may want to combine your market visit with a trip to other stores or businesses in the area.  Most markets are located near a business district or in the midst of it.

Farmers markets are chock-full of local vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses and eggs from surrounding farms and ranches and a lot more. You’ll find breads, pies, salami, pesto, honey, flowers, wine, pasta, plant starts, seafood and more.  A whole shopping basket full.

Make shopping at a farmers market a part of your life – to eat well, to make friends and to be a part of your community.

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PFM Board President Dick Benner, PFM Executive Director Trudy Toliver, Commissioner Fish, Congressman Blumenauer, Mayor Adams and our new logo! Photo by Deborah Pleva

Dear PFM Friends:

I’ve always prided myself on having jobs that represent what I believe in.  I worked in public transit for a long time; I had a sunny stint at a national park and then raised money for environmental groups.  But now, now I have the best job – ever!  Thank you.

Last year, when considering this position as PFM’s Executive Director, I was told how wonderful the staff is, how capable and bright.  That is true and only the beginning.  They are an awesome team who care about each other and are dedicated to our vendors and shoppers.  Along with the ever-patient and supportive board of directors, they made my first year at PFM thoroughly enjoyable.

While I had fun, we also got a lot done.  We celebrated our 20th anniversary with an at-market event where elected officials spoke; then the International Culinary School hosted an anniversary dinner for 200 of our closest friends.  We butchered half a pig on Saturday, played veggie bingo on Thursday and planted starts on Sunday.

Even back at the office I was blissful through development of a new logo with the incomparable Frank Creative, the re-write of our vendor handbook, and a new strategic plan that helps shape our future.

What a beautiful year.

Here are my intentions for next year:   I will get dirt under my finger nails (that means spend some time on a farm).  I will learn to prepare kohlrabi and like it.  I’ll become involved in the neighborhoods we serve and will advocate for farmers’ markets with elected officials.  I also want to become better friends with the many of you I’ve met so far and meet those whom I’ve not yet had the pleasure.  And I hope to see you at our new Winter Market this January!

Warm winter wishes,

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Executive Director Ann Forsthoefel and Senior Market Manager Jaret Foster

December 18th will be my last market as PFM’s Executive Director. The past two and half years have been the best of my professional career and I am so sorry my time at PFM is coming to an end. The journey has been extraordinary and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute. Even during challenging times I always knew that I was one of the lucky ones. I have been fortunate to be paid for doing work that is both my vocation and avocation. I got paid to hang out with farmers, local food producers, shoppers who are extreme local foodies, extraordinary chefs, dedicated board members and the best damn volunteers and staff in the world. I have been truly blessed and the PFM community will always hold a special place in my heart.

It goes without saying that running the markets wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of our board and staff. The next time you see a red-shirted staff member at the markets or call the office, say thanks or give them a hug. Working at a non-profit organization, these individuals are not making the big bucks and many of them only work for us 9 months out of the year, finding temporary work to get them by until the season starts again. Yet, year after year they return. Why? Because the markets are magical and it feeds their souls.

Most importantly, my thanks go out to you, farmers and shoppers. The markets exist because of your dedication. Weekly, I am amazed at the number of repeat shoppers we have at the markets. Dear shoppers, you have truly made a difference in the local food movement. Without you we would have never have created one of the most robust local food systems in the world. Educated and dedicated – the perfect combination for changing the conventional food system.

To our many value added food artisans and hot food concessionaires, I thank you for the passion you bring to your craft and for helping to make our markets a true showplace for local food.  It is because of this strength and diversity that our markets are so successful.

My dear farmers, I know the joy and sacrifice of your labor and it is the most noble of all professions. To you my last salute goes; you are the true heroes. Gnarled, soil-creased hands, slightly hunched backs and faces of extreme character; your beauty makes every day sunny. Daily on our behalf you plant and harvest in the rain, wind and sun. You tend to your animals through birth and death and defy convention in order to produce the best, most wholesome food, only to face the extreme odds of making a profit. I know as you review your checking account each month you ponder: is this worth it? Yes! Yes! Yes it is! You are our salvation, our connection to the whole.  Without you we have no guiding star; we have no hope of creating a society that is connected and nourished. You are and always will be my substance, literally and metaphorically. I leave you with this: No matter where I am, I will fight, educate, cajole, and give my last my breath to making local farmers prosperous, understood and loved.

~ Ann

To our beloved Ann,

Your considerable passion, strength, integrity, leadership and warmth have been an inspiration and a gift to our organization and the Portland community.  We wish you a world of happiness on your new adventure and will always keep a special place for you in our hearts.  You will be dearly missed.

~Your PFM Family

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Senate Bill 510, also known as the FDA Food Modernization Act, seeks to make food safer for consumers. Portland Farmers Market believes in healthy, affordable and safe food for all, but worries how Senate Bill 510 will affect our vendors. At issue: As written, the proposed law’s ‘one size fits all’ regulations will hurt family farms, food related small businesses and agricultural entrepreneurs or, as you know them, the growers, ranchers, farmers and food artisans who make up Portland Farmers Market.

PFM Executive Director Ann Forsthoefel on Senate Bill 510:

Last week at the Buckman Market we had the privilege of hosting a group from the Oregon Sustainability Experience. It was a beautiful evening and the participants were very interested in learning more about direct farming and how it makes a difference in the community. Jamie Reckers, the site coordinator for this market, proudly shared that there are 17 farmers participating at this market who sell directly to the residents of this urban neighborhood. This fresh produce that has been harvested in the last 24 hours is being sold to approximately 1,500 shoppers weekly. Jamie also shared that the total acreage under the care of these farmers and orchardists is approximately 800 acres. I could tell by the reaction of some of the participants that they were impressed with the amount of land under tillage as well as the amount of shoppers in attendance each week.

Raised in rural Ohio where my next-door neighbor alone farmed over 1,000 acres of soybeans, corn, and wheat, I knew that 800 acres was not a lot. What is impressive though is that our grower’s 800 acres of row crops produces a stunning variety of fresh, vibrant fruits and vegetables, as compared to the 1,000 acres of commodity crops grown by my former neighbor. Our local farmers are feeding people not feedlot animals or cars.

I began to wonder, why are we even debating on Senate Bill 510?

The family farmers participating at our markets are not in the same category as commodity farmers—not by a long shot. The largest farm operation in the United States is Farmers National Company (FNC). In 2008, FNC had 1.2 million acres in production, represented over 3,600 farms and ranches under its management, and had 140 full time employees in farm management services and an additional 100 real-estate agents. It is simply mind blowing that Senate Bill 510 would require our small family farms to follow the same regulations as this mega-operation.

Senate Bill 510 will not be a financial hardship for FNC, but I cannot say the same for our farmers. The Tester-Hagan Amendment seeks to exclude farms and food businesses with revenues below $500,000 from the new produce standards and preventive controls in the bill. These smaller entities would continue to be regulated under existing local, state and federal law. I am hopeful this amendment will succeed in a floor vote, as it will provide insurance against the one-size-fits-all rules that could be potentially harmful to the family farms and small food businesses that nourish our community.

Please contact your senator today.

We urge you to read, share, email, post, link, comment and most of all contact your senator in support of the Tester (Jon, D-MT, the Senate’s only farmer)-Hagan Amendment that exempts small scale processors and direct marketing farms from the proposed law. Contact info can be found at congress.org or below:

OR Jeff Merkley: merkley.senate.gov, (202)224-3753; 503-326-3386
OR Ron Wyden: wyden.senate.gov, (202)224-5244; 503-326-7525

WA Patty Murray: murray.senate.gov, (202)224-2621; 360-696-7797
WA Maria Cantwell: cantwell.senate.gov, (202)224-3441; 360-696-7838

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It was an amazing opening day for Portland Farmers Market’s nineteenth season. The near-perfect weather led to record breaking attendance and sales. Over 12,000 people strolled through the expanded  market purchasing every leafy green, carrot and market goodie in sight. Hundreds of people picnicked on the grass while listening to the music and enjoying the warm spring breeze.  Looking around the bustling market, I realized that the months of planning and negotiating for our new space had paid off and that this day was worth every gray hair that sprouted during the past year.

This rousing success is made possible because of our dedicated shoppers and farmers. It takes both to make a successful market and we are grateful to live in an area that values locally grown and produced food. The local food economy is growing continuously every year in our fair city, largely due to our incredible farmers, rich farm land and educated shoppers. Portland Farmers Market oversees six markets in the metro area and we are proud of the contribution we make, though we are not doing it alone; there dozens of other farmers markets, CSA’s, local restaurants and chefs, cooperative and conventional grocery stores, all contributing to making the Portland metro area the strongest regional food system in the world.

Currently, only 3% of produce is purchased at farmers’ markets and it is my dream that in the next five years we will have 10% of the pie. Along the way, we will help create more local jobs, generate a demand for more farmers, preserve precious farmland, and help to make a safer environment and healthier citizens.  I feel confident that this can be accomplished but we need you to continue to shop at your local farmers’ markets and to buy local!

Thank you again dear community for supporting local agriculture and I will see you at the market,


P.S.  For a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes at the market, check out this post from Jaret Foster, our senior market manager.

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