With so many farmer’s markets in the Portland area, one may wonder why the Beaverton Farmer’s Market is widely considered by many to be the farmer’s market.
Could it be that it is the single largest, all-agricultural market in the state of Oregon? Or perhaps it’s because it was one of the first to open, way back in 1988, when there were only 23 farmer’s markets in the entire state. Today there are over 160.
There’s Some History Here
Whatever the reason, circulating through 20,000 people on any given Saturday is no small feat, as Market Manager Ginger Rapport will tell you. Having been the market manager for 21 years, she beams with pride when she talks about the market she has so carefully cultivated over the years.
“I feel very lucky because it takes a lot of people to support this many vendors,” she says. With around 130 vendors who will park and spread out across 190 spaces, the Beaverton Farmer’s Market bustles with activity.
The market was first created by the Central Beaverton Neighborhood Association as a gathering place for the community, but as Rapport puts it, “nobody had any idea that it would take off the way it has.”
The entire basis for the appeal of a farmer’s market lies in getting something that has been produced or grown locally. As such, only Oregon and Washington growers or producers are allowed to become a vendor in the market. There is a mix of both conventional and organic farming. “We want people to have that choice,” says Rapport.
Fortunately, the community feel that led to the birth of the Beaverton Farmer’s Market still exists today. “Customers are loyal,” Rapport explains. “They come for the relationships, and that’s one of the most important parts of a farmer’s market.”
Customer loyalty and relationship building is the name of the game when you are a local farmer, as Skipanon Seafood’s Mark Kajul will tell you. Kajul, who also happens to be the Mayor of Warrington, Oregon, runs his seafood operation off of the rugged Oregon Coast, and his fresh catches rarely last through the afternoon.
“We start the day and have a pretty big crowd of people waiting at eight in the morning,” he says. “They get their fresh salmon and their fresh oysters and then they are off. We also do a lot of bottom fish and Albacore tuna when it is in season.”
Their popularity is apparent. By noon almost their entire booth has been picked clean, with nothing more than a bin of oysters and some smoked salmon offerings left.
From Produce to Protein At Beaverton Farmers Market
While the proteins are important, let’s not forget this is a farmer’s market, where produce is king. One of the larger tents is dedicated to Denison Farms of Corvallis, Oregon. Now considered an “heirloom vendor,” Tom Denison has driven 75 miles to deliver bushels of product to the Beaverton Farmer’s Market for over 20 years.
Since Denison Farms grows over a hundred different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, you can expect a wide selection at their stand, even when weather conditions or seasonal problems result in a poorly producing crop or two.
Speaking of variety, one of the first things that hits you upon arriving at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market is the diverse array of product available. Whether you are looking for pollinating insects, produce, seafood or honey, chances are someone at Beaverton Farmer’s Market has what you are looking for.
Even a dairy option is represented. A small outfit, with only 80 – 90 producing cows, Lady-Lane Dairy Farm provides top quality milk from happy free-range roaming Jersey Cows. Whether it be their purebred quality or the non-GMO feed they consume, Lady-Lane Dairy milk is higher in calcium, protein, vitamins and sugar. It has a rich texture that simply can’t be replicated by grocery store varieties.
Finding all of these varied, quality vendors isn’t easy, Beaverton Farmer’s Market makes it part of their mission to ensure they are offering only the best to their customers. While some may be content to sign up a new vendor and then let the process go on autopilot, not Rapport. She wants to make sure she is fully connected to the products that are being peddled in her markets, so her and her staff pay visits to their vendors’ operations. “I have to confess,” she says, “the farm visits are the best part of my job.”
Over Here, Honey
On a recent visit to TS Bees – yes, the Beaverton Farmer’s Market has a resident bee keeper – Rapport laughs as she explains how she was, “the first one to get bit, of course.”
TS Bees’ Ron Stark gushes as he explains how “it could be a nightmare five minutes before we get here and you would never know it. There’s never any drama and everything is always ready.”
“Let me step away so he can tell you the truth,” Rapport says with a laugh. It’s obvious these relationships are hard set.
Stark explains that he’s been in the market for four years, but had been trying to get in for seven. Now that they are in, they are here to stay. From the Snake Bite to the Marion berry honey and Royal Jelly, this is true local, with over 50 hives “just up the hill,” Stark says.
Even more fascinating, Stark explains the ingenious way TS Bees rids their colonies of the devastating Varroa Mite, which is said to be partially responsible for the Colony Collapse Disorder ravaging bee populations the world over.
“If we have any problems we take a mineral oil and spearmint solution and fog the hives with it,” he explains. “It’s not killing the mites, but it is destroying their egg roll. And then the oil makes the bees slippery so the mites fall off of them onto a sticky board at the bottom of the hive.”
As Rapport aptly puts it, “when you are managing live creatures, it’s really fascinating.” Walking around Beaverton Farmer’s Market, there’s no doubt about that. So next time you are looking for something fresh and local, whether produce or protein, pay the Beaverton Farmer’s Market a visit.
While you shop, spend some time having a bite or enjoying their Local Liquors section, where a myriad of local microbreweries and other beverage vendors are located. Enjoy your time shopping for only the freshest, most local products and cultivate relationships within your community – all at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market.
Beaverton Farmer’s Market is located across from the Beaverton City Library on SW Hall Blvd. between 3rd and 5th. Their yearly market hours are:
1st and 3rd Saturdays of Feb, March, April, 10AM-1:30PM
Every Saturday, May 7th through November 19th
*Hours: May-September, 8AM-1:30PM. October-November, 9AM-1:30PM.
WEDNESDAY MARKETS (2016)
Wednesdays, June 15 – August 31, 3PM-6PM.
FALL MARKETS (2016)
Saturdays, October – November. 9AM-1:30PM.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a published author, poet and longtime journalist who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over twelve years. He currently works from his home in the Pacific Northwest profiling restaurants, reviewing local plays and reporting on regional, national and international travel.