Montavilla Farmers Market: A Vendors Perspective

Montavilla Farmers Market: A Vendors Perspective

June 22, 2011 |  by  |  Blog  |  1 Comment

This should come as no surprise to you, but there is something special about Montavilla Farmers Market (MFM). As consumers, most of us already get it. We recognize the value in accessing quality produce, supporting local agriculture, and having opportunities to interact with our neighbors. However, what many market shoppers don’t realize is that MFM is a great place for vendors too.

The following is a list of ways that MFM is taking care of us vendors:

  • Rigorous vender selection and high standards—You should know that MFM works very hard to provide the Montavilla community with great vendors serving diverse, high quality products. This attention to detail helps reduce vendor competition while increasing opportunities for barter (we like trading our produce for Thai Mama spring rolls, but in the past have swapped for coffee, pastries, bagels, goat cheese, and veggies). The vendor community at MFM is strong as we are a like-minded bunch with a great deal of respect for each other’s work.
  • Providing debit/EBT machine on-site—While not a cheap service, (it costs the market almost $2,000 a season) by helping customers access funds to purchase food, vendors benefit with greater sales.
  • Chef demos—It is wonderful to have professional chefs highlight your produce. Especially for more obscure items, like garlic scapes. We’ve gotten several new recipes and preparation ideas from talking with the weekly chefs. This is great information we pass along to our customers.
  • Durable Dish—This program is vendor friendly for two reasons. First, ready-to-eat food sellers aren’t required to purchase compostable dishes or containers. Secondly, solid, reusable dishware creates a much nicer dining experience, encouraging market goers to hang around longer.
  • Paying with tokens—Musicians and community partners are paid for their time with market tokens. This means they are only redeemable at the MFM and will eventually end up in vendor’s tills.
  • Promotion—MFM promotes its vendors though e-newsletters, blogging, and the Market’s website. Who is going to poke their nose at free advertising?
  • Direct deposit—Vendors are now given the opportunity to have market checks deposited into their accounts. While this might not seem like a major perk, it actually makes a significant impact. Not only does it save MFM money, but also allows vendors to spend more time focusing on important activities, like growing food or making humus.
  • Vendor potluck—In September, MFM hosts an event to show appreciation for all the vendors and volunteers who played a role in the season’s success. Knowing that it’s impossible to upstage the farmers on food, the market takes the safe route and brings beer.
  • Organization—One of the most critical aspects for vendor satisfaction is the way a market is managed. Through the tireless work of Market Manager Gretchan Jackson and new hires Nicolette Smith (Financial Operations Coordinator) and Erin Roycroft (Volunteer Coordinator), this market never skips a beat.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the market, its vendors, and its customers. Keeping vendors happy ensures the market always has greatproducts and wonderful sellers, which in turnencouragespatronage. This brings me back to my original point—MFM is special. As it has grown, there has been continued recognition that the quality of a market is defined by the people who partake in it. This includes both the vendors and consumers. Providing incentives for each of these groups ensures long-lasting market vibrancy.

Rowan

Fiddlehead Farm

What Is Our Role in Community Food Security?

Spring onions at the market showcase the bounty that comes with a sunny, warm spring.

What Is Our Role in Community Food Security?

June 15, 2011 |  by  |  Blog  |  No Comments

Summer is right around the corner, and our fifth season at the Montavilla Farmers Market is in full swing. Our farmers are selling the most beautiful fresh greens, strawberries, spring onions, new potatoes, crispy radishes, and so much more seasonal goodies. Seeing this abundance every week makes me feel lucky to live in such a bountiful region where such fresh, seasonal vegetables, cheeses, fruit, and more are literally right down the street. Yet, I also realize that not everyone in Portland gets to delight in the bounty of the Willamette Valley.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend the 2nd annual Multnomah Food Summit, which was organized by the Multnomah County Office of Sustainability. The Summit brought together community groups, businesses, and government to focus on increasing Multnomah County citizens’ access to healthy, sustainably produced food, not just through policy but also through grassroots initiatives. As Oregon Food Bank’s Advocacy Director, Jon Stubenvoll put it, the Summit can easily be a model for bringing together the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to confront serious problems and create real change.

With the start of our fifth, and quite possibly largest, season, I’ve found myself reflecting on the role the Montavilla Farmers Market can play in increasing our community’s food security. How can the Market make sure that people who are disproportionally absent at farmers markets in general – such as seniors, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and low-income individuals – have access to the same fresh, healthy food as those who can afford it?

Our SNAP Matching Funds program is one way that we’re helping combat food insecurity. Thanks to a grant from New Seasons, we can match up to $5 in tokens for folks who use their Oregon Trail EBT card at the market. This is no insignificant feat and is the fruit of tremendous efforts made by past and present board members and staff. Yet, there is still much to be done to make sure that everyone in our community gets to partake of the bounty of our region. How can we make sure that the Montavilla Farmers Market is doing its part? 

This is no easy questions, and we don’t yet have an answer. Over the next season, we hope to better define our role in increasing food security for seniors, immigrants, and low-income individuals in the Montavilla community.

Multnomah County and many other regions across the country are simultaneously forging new ground in food and agriculture policy. If there’s one lesson I learned at the Food Summit, it was that everyone has a role to play in solving our nation’s food insecurity problem. Businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, farmers market, and individuals all have a responsibility to make sure that everyone in the community has access to healthy food