With all the wonderful farmers markets about to open for the bountiful spring-into-summer season, we wanted to spotlight one of the area’s oldest institutions, the Beaverton Farmers Market. Ginger Rapport, longtime market manager, gave us some insight into what makes farmers markets such a wonderful experience for families.
The Beaverton Farmers Market has been around longer than almost any market in the area. How has your audience has changed over the years? The market is celebrating its 26th year with the opening of our new Winter Market in February. I’ve been market manager for 18 of those years. I’ve seen many changes. Our customer is more sophisticated. Moms shop with a purpose, not just because it is fun, the thing to do. Families are looking for artisan foods, naturally raised meats and dairy and sustainably raised products.
Have you seen young families come year after year, then watched the children become shoppers themselves?My daughter is a great example. She was 6 years old when I started at the market, and she is now 22. She lives in Ashland and is a faithful shopper at their farmers market. Hers is the generation that grew up with farmers markets and always knew who grew the carrots they were eating.
This is the norm for her. We have a “Market Sprouts” program that’s aimed at getting the next generation of shoppers to participate now. They look for clues at the market each Saturday, such as finding red carrots. They get the farmer at that booth to sign a passport card and come back to the information booth for stickers and prizes. It’s meant to give young shoppers something meaningful to do while they’re here, hopefully get them interested in the great food offered, and buy it directly from the person who grows it.
There’s one little boy, about 4 years old, who shops the market with his parents every week, rain or shine. He was vey shy at first but eventually started talking with the farmers. He was the only little shopper to completely fill out his passport and was awarded a special prize at the end of the season.
Who’s your oldest customer? She’s over 100! She loves to shop the produce from Denison Farms. She was married to a Meier, of the old department store, Meier & Frank.
How does a farmer’s market influence food choices? It teaches people to eat seasonally according to what’s fresh. It also gives a glimpse of the people behind the food we eat. We’re so used to being detached from the actual producer of our bread, corn or meat that it’s good to connect and know that there’s a person and passion at the core of everything they consume at a farmers market. Farmers are often generations of families.
A good example is Chris Hertel of Sun Gold Farm. After growing up on a farm, going to college and earning a teaching credential, Chris was offered the opportunity to come back to the farm, so he did. Some farm kids can’t wait to get away from the back-breaking work of the farm. They go off to college and never look back. But once in a while, like at Sun Gold Farm, it becomes a lifelong family affair. Chris’s mom and dad, Vicki and Charlie, and his sister Stephanie own and work the farm.
What should our readers know about farmers markets? The bulk of our customers are families. The people shopping in our aisles are thinking about what to plant in their yards, what to pack in kids’ lunches and what the healthiest, highest-quality foods are to serve their kids at meal time. They shop together because they like to make a morning of it. They can help their kids hunt for Market Sprouts clues and enjoy an outdoor lunch listening to live local bands. Shopping becomes fun, healthy and our customers are supporting local growers.
There are a few things to note to make your visit more enjoyable. Our market doesn’t allow dogs, but Home Plate, a group that supports homeless youth, offers dog-sitting in the adjacent park. We have loading zones, which mean you don’t have to carry around purchases—so don’t hesitate to buy a tree, a couple of watermelons or a flat of herbs. Wear comfortable shoes because you will do a lot of walking. Wear sunscreen. Bring a cooler in the summer for delicate greens, milk and other heat-sensitive products. And of course, do connect with the farmers—get to know the people who arise at 3 a.m. to set up booths and make these gifts of the earth available to us.