by Kelly Merrick

Once a year, at the end of April, comes a day where we take the time to honor the planet we live on, and we call this day Earth Day.

Lucky for us, we live in a city that makes it easy to love the earth every day of the year, not for just one day. We have more than 10,000 acres of public parks and natural areas to enjoy, we’re just a short drive to the ocean, the mountains and the desert; and we have such an abundance of local and fresh food that we can honor the earth even when we shop for our groceries.

Speaking of honoring the earth and buying groceries, there’s a great chance for you to do both this DSC_0205Saturday, April 26 at the Arbor Day Festival, which will take place from 8:30am to 2pm right in the middle of the Portland Farmers Market at PSU.

The festival is put on by Portland Parks & Recreation along with the Urban Forestry Commission and is Portland’s annual gathering to honor the culmination of Arbor Month.

There will be interactive games, and educational activities for kids of all ages, including the highlight of the event – the Bill Naito Community Trees Award ceremony at Noon. The ceremony will honor the 936 people who made the Guinness World Record for largest tree-hug a reality, as well as Phil Hamilton, who put in over 21,000 hours over the course of 20 years to help document and restore the forest of the Tryon Creek State Natural area.

The Arbor Day Festival will feature something for everyone, so come do your shopping at the market and then stop by to enjoy the fun. The weather is even supposed to clear up just in time for the event, so you can leave your umbrella (yes, Oregonians do use umbrellas) and galoshes at home and soak up some sun while you celebrate trees in the city.

In other market news, you can also catch the following vendors at PSU this week in a limited market appearance:IMG_0661

  • Portland Mushroom Company – making a one-time guest appearance (they will be a regular at the Buckman and Pioneer Courthouse Square markets this season)
  • My Wreaths – last day until the fall
  • Cascade Naturals
  • Dave’s Killer Bread

And last, but certainly not least, three markets are joining in on the springtime fun this week! Buckman opens Thursday, May 1; King on Sunday, May 4 and Shemanski is back starting Wednesday, May 7.

Happy shopping!

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.