Find out how this market’s organizers are meeting the needs of its ‘food-insecure’ residents – and how everyone benefits …
Jill Kuehler, Lents International Farmers Market Manager, talks with a customer at the Community Table on the market’s opening day.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The most recent local open-air marketplace to open for the year, on June 15, was the Lents International Farmers Market.
“Last year was our first full season,” said manager Jill Kuehler. “We had an average of about 400 customers and 8 vendors every Sunday last year. This year we’re doubling our number of vendors, and we hope to double our number of customers as well.”
Meeting community’s food needs
Three years ago, Kuehler said, a research project showed that about 25% of Lents-area residents felt insecure about the availability of, and the ability to buy, fresh and wholesome food in the area.
“Of all the ideas the group came up with, an international farmer’s market is what really resonated with the neighborhood,” explained Kuehler.
Offering freshly grown greens, raised at the Portland State University Learning Lab Gardens on SE 60th Street, are graduate students Stephanie Rooney, assistant manager, and Jeanne Ferreira, garden manager. They accept donations, and give produce to families in need.
Fresh from the farm
An dependably early sell-out at this market each week is the eggs Bonnie Hodge brings from her Brookside Farms, ten blocks from this market. One customer quipped, has he snapped up a dozen, “These eggs are so fresh, I don’t think the hens have had time to miss them.” Hodge warned, “Once you’ve tried farm-fresh eggs, there’s no going back.”
“Blooming Goodies” returned this season their stunning flower bouquets and unique Asian produce. “Caspian Blossoms”, new to the market this year, sells Turkish and Arabic pastries, plus olive spreads, eggplant dips, and dolmas – an Eastern European stuffed vegetable dish.
Three cultural celebrations planned
Scattered throughout the summer, the market has planned events celebrating the culture of Eastern Europe (July 13), Southeast Asia (Aug. 17), and Latin America (Sept. 21).
“These events promote the cultural diversity of Lents residents and the market vendors, while creating an educational opportunity for people to learn more about their neighbors,” noted Kuehler.
While her mom and dad shop, Ailee Pederson creates artwork at the market’s children’s center.
Weekly music and activities
Musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations showing how to prepare many of the more exotic vegetables available at the market, and children’s activities, are offered each week.
Prepared foods and beverages from Parkrose’s “Traveling Coffee Kids” rolling kitchen, fresh fruit pies and pastries, and Mexican delicacies are also available. We enjoyed a delicious chicken-and-vegetable tamale prepared by a family participating in the Hacienda CDC program called “Micro Mercantes” – it teaches entrepreneurial skills, while providing economic opportunities.
Plans July food stamp promotion
“As part of our mission, we accept food stamps,” commented Kuehler. “During the month of July, we’ll help stretch their value by giving these customers extra value. For every food stamp dollar spent, the market will match it, up to $5 each week.”
Kuehler asked us to thank their major supporters: Zenger Farm, a non-profit farm and wetland in outer southeast Portland, Kaiser Permanente Community Fund of the Northwest Health Foundation, and New Seasons Markets.
Where and when
Lents International Farmers Market
- Where: The corner of SE 92nd Avenue and Foster Road.
- When: Sundays, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. through October 14
To learn more, CLICK HERE or call (503) 621-7655
© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News