Farmers markets across Central Oregon are months away from opening, but that didn’t stop local farmers and ranchers from giving people an early season sampling Saturday at the third annual Spring Farm & Food Faire.

The fair, held inside the Coats Campus Center on the Central Oregon Community College campus, was hosted by the college’s sustainability committee, Central Oregon Locavore, and the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance.

More than a dozen booths were set up with farmers selling their spring greens, radishes and broccoli. A few ranchers and dairy farmers were on hand to sell their raw milk, eggs and meats.

The indoor market gave the farmers and ranchers a chance to connect with local residents and showcase their products well before markets open, typically in June.

But it was also a way for them to reconnect with each other after the long winter months, said Megan French, who lives and works on the Boundless Farmstead in Alfalfa.

“I haven’t seen anybody all winter. It’s been nice to check in,” French said. “It seems like everybody had a fairly mellow winter, which is always a good thing when you are a farmer. Nothing exciting happened? Perfect.”

Kaylin Landry, who works at Central Oregon Locavore, a year-round indoor local food farmers market in Bend, sat at the market’s booth Saturday. Landry said she has noticed the farmers seem to have a head start this year compared to last spring, when they were coming out of a long, exhausting winter.

“They didn’t have to rebuild all of their greenhouses,” Landry said. “Last year, they all had to rebuild their greenhouses, so the farmers markets started later.”

Owen Murphy, a COCC professor who teaches a sustainable food class, helped organize the Spring Farm & Food Faire.

“Ultimately, I want people to be aware of where their food comes from and the consequences and effects of their food purchases,” Murphy said. “I would love them to connect with farmers in the community.”

As much as the early-­season fair is about selling products like other farmers markets, it’s also about creating a personal connection between the local food growers and the community, Murphy said.

“That said, I hope everybody sells out today,” he said.

Bend couple Chris and Rachel Hittlet strolled together through the fair Saturday, on the lookout for seeds to begin growing their own garden this year.

Chris Hittlet, who works as a landscaper in Bend, was happy to soak in the farmers market atmosphere.

“It’s good to see all the different suppliers that are out around here,” he said. “The raw milk and meat and eggs are always good to get locally supplied if you can.”

The couple made their way to each booth, and stopped to chat with some of the farmers and ranchers.

“You get to talk to the actual source,” Chris Hittlet said. “That’s really cool.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,