Macy Crowe
The Bulletin

Bend farmers markets

NorthWest Crossing Farmers Market

Location: NW Crossing Drive, Bend

Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, June 16 through Sept. 15

Downtown Bend Farmers Market

Location: Brooks Alley, Bend, behind the Tower Theatre

Hours: 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, through Oct. 10

Eastside Bend Farmers Market

Location: Whole Foods East Lot, 2610 NE U.S. Highway 20, Bend

Hours: 2 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, July 5 through Sept. 27

Brooks Alley bustled with activity on a recent sunny Wednesday afternoon. Farmers stacked tables high with colorful assortments of carrots, kale, beets and lettuce; customers clutched bouquets of fresh-cut flowers and carried cartons of blackberries, and there was an excited buzz of conversation.

That’s right, farmers market season has begun, and it’s early this year.

As the farm-to-table movement sweeps the nation, an emphasis on buying local products and food is gaining popularity in Central Oregon. The rise in interest is reflected in the increasing number of farmers markets in American communities.

In recent years, there was an east-side farmers market at Mountain View High School, but it was unsuccessful because of the Friday afternoon time and off-the-beaten-path location. This year, expectations are high for the new Eastside Bend Farmers Market, located just off of U.S. Highway 20, with up to 25 vendors.

“It’s like awareness is up, engagement is up with regard to purchasing and seeking out local food,” said Owen Murphy, of Central Oregon Community College.

Murphy, an associate professor of health and human performance, teaches a class on sustainable food and nutrition at the college. “It seems, at least from my perspective, like there’s more headlines involving local food and more people involved.”

The Downtown Bend Farmers Market opened last week — one month ahead of schedule. NorthWest Crossing Farmers Market will open in June. A new market on Bend’s east side will open in July. In addition, there are markets in Redmond, Sisters and Madras.

“The number of farmers markets listed in the USDA Farmers Market Directory nearly doubled from 4,385 in 2006 to over 8,600 in 2016,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program 2016 Report.

Why local?

Farmers markets are one of the few places where a consumer can talk directly to the person growing their food.

“People are getting more curious, so they can go and meet the farmer face-to-face and ask questions: Do you use herbicides? How do you farm? Why do you farm?” said Gigi Meyer, owner of Windflower Farm.

Farmers markets have gained popularity for many reasons.

The food is sold at competitive, affordable prices. Most, if not all, of the produce is harvested within 48 hours of the time it’s made available for sale and farmers are on hand to answer any questions about how the food was produced.

“If you go to a grocery store, you don’t have very much information to base your purchases off of other than a label or a claim or certifications,” Murphy said. “But there’s so many other things that play a role in the health and quality of the food: the soil that the food was grown in, how the workers and the animals are treated in producing that food. And I think that’s something that, in this stage of the game, you can only get from farmers and ranchers themselves.”

In addition, the money used to buy local food is more likely to stay in the local economy.

“For us, we’re keeping the dollar turning locally,” Fields said. “What we grow here, we sell here — and the money we make, we spend here. That’s the best part of it, the economic cycle.”

According to the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance’s 2017 Local Food Economic Impact Report, “For every dollar spent on local food, $0.76 stays in Central Oregon compared to $0.28 when you buy imported food.”

Market roundup

The addition of the Eastside Bend Farmers Market, located in the Whole Foods parking lot, came at the request of customers in a survey conducted by the Downtown Bend Farmers Market.

Residents living in Bend’s east-side community wanted a market that was closer to home, said Katrina Wiest, Bend Farmers Market manager.

“Whole Foods was very supportive,” said Megan French, co-owner of Boundless Farmstead and member of the board of directors for Bend Farmers Market.

“They recognize that there’s small farms that they just can’t accept into their doors,” she said. “Either they don’t have certification or they don’t have the quantity, so I think it was just a nice way to partner with the community.”

The Bend Farmers Market did not have to sign a non-­compete clause with Whole Foods, but they are asked not to include prepared foods vendors.

“We aren’t charging the vendors or market anything to be here, but if we can drive some sales inside once a week for pizza, tacos, burgers, something hot and yummy, we’d like to have that for the market guests,” Becca Burda, marketing and community relations liaison for Whole Foods, said in an email.

Both the downtown and east-side Bend farmers markets are solely agricultural, horticultural markets. The east-side market has space for 25 vendors. Twenty-nine vendors have applied.

Two of the approved vendors are Dome Grown Produce, a 20-acre vegetable farm in Redmond with a geodesic dome used to grow vegetables, and Terrebonne’s DD Ranch, which will sell 100 percent grass-fed beef, heritage pork and eggs. Berry vendors from the Willamette Valley will bring Oregon-grown blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Downtown digs

The downtown market, which usually opens in June, opened one month early because several vendors have products available now. For example, Vaquero Valley Ranch and Cattle Company has ground beef and steaks, The Village Baker has loaves of bread and The Great American Egg has eggs available.

“I think people don’t realize that eggs are seasonal; birds will be in totally full production right around the equinox,” French said.

Several of the Central Oregon vegetable farms will wait until June to set up their stands, but, in the meantime, vendors from the Willamette Valley are present to provide produce.

Thus far, 37 vendors have signed up for the Downtown Bend Farmers Market, including Fields Farm, Casad Family Farms and Groundworks Organics.

Vendors will be selling fruits, vegetables, baked goods, dairy products, fish, lamb, coffee, kombucha, gluten-­free sweets, flowers, Oregon spirits and more.

Boundless Farmstead will make its debut at the Downtown Bend Farmers Market this summer. French and her partner, David Kellner-Rode, began Boundless Farmstead, a produce and poultry farm near the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, this year. The two have worked on several Central Oregon farms in the past, but this is their first time owning and operating one.

“It’s nice to hear what people did with their vegetables or their recipes, and how much they enjoyed them,” French said.

Fields Farm will also be at the Downtown Bend Farmers Market for the 20th consecutive year. Jim Fields will have a wide assortment of vegetables, including their most popular item: carrots.

“We have great varieties (of carrots). … Then our soils have been organically amended for 29 years,” Fields said.

NorthWest Crossing

Meyer, the owner of Windflower Farm, is looking forward to a presence at the NorthWest Crossing Farmers Market as a way of introducing the farm to Central Oregon residents. Since last summer, the farm has scaled up production with an additional acre of land.

Windflower Farm will have a wide selection of carrots, beets, herbs, turnips, radishes and leafy greens. The farm has a large flower operation in addition to vegetables, so they will also have a flower stand with a build-your-own-­bouquet option.

“We’re excited to offer an interactive experience at the market,” Meyer said. When people buy flowers, it’s as if “they’re picking their own bouquets from the farm.”

There will be an average of 75 vendors weekly and live music by local musicians. It’s the only Bend farmers market that sells handcrafted goods in addition to food items. There will be jewelry, soaps, home and garden decor, artwork and candles.

“I think the people that come and live here, they come because of this beautiful environment that we live in, so maybe they come with a sensibility that feels connected to nature,” Meyer said.

“(Farmers markets) are supporting a beneficial and ecological use of the landscape, and they’re supporting the beauty of their environment. Farms are so critical to survival — you know food is pretty essential.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0351 or mcrowe@bendbulletin.com

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