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Cedar Mill News
Volume 2, Issue 6


June 2004

Cedar Mill Farmers’ Market–veggies and more!

Vendor Jen Peterson, Dina & Mark Gross

Every Saturday from now through September, The Cedar Mill Farmers’ Market will tempt us with a wide array of fresh fruits, veggies, plants and homemade crafts, along with prepared foods to eat at the market or take home. Now located in the western end of the Sunset Mall at Murray and Cornell (the Safeway center), the market enters its fifth year of operation.

The market was begun in the summer of 1999 by Leilani Esping and her husband Michael, along with friend Rhonnda Edmiston. “Hollywood Farmer’s Market board members met with us to help us create a timeline to open,” says Esping. “Then Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm, Dot’s Bakery and Rossi Farms met with us to give us feedback on what they needed. They were the ones who said we were creating a community event and that is sure what it is! ”

Longtime volunteer Dina Gross took over the operation. Dina remembers, “In the second year my husband, Mark, started helping quite a bit with set-up at 6 am and take-down after 1:30 pm, and our involvement grew from then on. When Leilani moved away, Rhonnda Edmiston and Mark and I agreed to keep it going. That first summer, while Leilani was moving, we were able to transition into the coordinating roles. Rhonnda maintained the office work for the next year. She’d been with the Market since its infancy and finally, in 2003, decided to devote her volunteer time to other interests. ”

There’s a lot of work involved in running the market. Gross explains, “Since the market runs for at least four months–a full one-third of the year–just the in-season time alone is a huge time commitment. For several weeks in April and May running the market is a lot like running any small business, with marketing and bookkeeping work. There are a couple of months “off” in the winter when work only involves answering a few phone calls. Preparation begins in earnest in February when the phone calls come pouring in from vendors and musicians seeking to participate in our market.

“ In the spring, we work with the property owner/manager–currently Pan Pacific Retail Property, Inc., manager of the Sunset Mall property–to secure a site for the market. We also have to secure insurance yearly. We get up-to-date on Oregon Department of Agriculture rules, such as food safety requirements, which affect the market and our vendors. We register with the state’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program so that our farmers are able to accept coupons. We make sure that updated information goes out to local publications. When our venue and insurance coverage are confirmed, we send updated applications and rules to all former vendors and several dozen new potential vendors who have contacted us. And of course we do our taxes!

“ As we take in dozens of applications, and knowing our stable weekly booths such as Master Gardeners, we create a map of the market for each of the 17 or more weeks the market will be open. Every week tweaking the site map is like completing a puzzle, fitting a new mix of vendors together in a way that works best for everyone. Each Friday evening, we work up a final site map for the following day (taking into account expected weather conditions and all vendor cancellations, additions, and other input) and we chalk the booths onto the pavement of the site. (It can be difficult working around parked cars in our site, and sometimes we deal with surprises such as dumpsters parked and left in the middle of the market).

“ We’re up the next morning before 5:30 with the van and trailer loaded up and on site by 6 am to get vendors to their booth spots, and get our “Kids’ Place,” the Master Gardener booth, information booth, musician canopy, and other equipment into place. Our day doesn’t end until clean-up is done near 3 pm and then we get home and unload our vehicles, so Saturdays are easily ten-hour workdays for the both of us.

“ During the week, there are hours of phone and email exchanges with vendors and with community groups who might come out to the market to share information or to perform or fundraise. There is ongoing work on advertising, sign maintenance, press releases, and so forth. Once the market is rolling, we have paperwork for the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (for both WIC and Senior clients. Coupon records are maintained and coupons are submitted weekly to DHS for reimbursement. Other weekly bookkeeping tasks include maintaining records on booth fees, collecting payments and issuing receipts. We pay our musicians a little, but always wish we could pay them fairly. I dream that some day local businesses will step up to sponsor music each week at the market. ”

The Cedar Mill Farmers’ Market is registered with the state as a non-profit corporation, but currently doesn’t have enough of an educational component to get IRS non-profit status. The market also belongs to the Oregon Farmers’ Market Association, which has helped them with documentation and many other things. The association website (oregonfarmersmarkets.org) includes a “produce table” for shoppers indicating what’s in season, along with loads of support for market organizers.

Food vendors must meet county food preparation and handling standards. Market staff approve crafts or other items offered for sale. Booths cost between $25-40 depending on size. Community groups are welcome to join the market for fund-raising or information distribution –contact Dina for more information.

“ We need volunteers!” she exclaims. “We have some lovely helpers who come to spend an occasional Saturday with us, helping customers find items (“Where can I find white peaches this week?” or “Does anyone have heirloom tomatoes?”), carrying items to customers’ cars or anything else that comes up. We’d also welcome help with weekly prep or for off-season tasks such as advertising. If you think you might be interested in helping out, we’ll find something you’ll enjoy doing. Benefits include all those great intangibles like knowing you’re supporting a wonderful community event and spending time out in the sunshine meeting lots of fun people. And there are other more tangible benefits, adjusted to fit the volunteer, but usually some great fresh produce rewards are involved! ”

To volunteer, or with other questions about the market, call Dina Gross at 503-617-1719 or email her at dina@thegnar.org. They also have a small website at cmfmarket.org




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