Farm Fresh

Early fall in Corvallis, Oregon is magical.  The city picks up its pace as students filter in and Beaver pride comes in full blast.  The sun is still shining against a bright blue backdrop, and everyone is excited for a brand new school year, creating a perfect atmosphere for the Saturday farmer’s market.  Wandering down first street with your friends and family on a Saturday morning, talking to farmers and sampling their fresh produce is an experience everyone has to try.  With over seventy vendors selling their local products on Saturdays, the Corvallis farmer’s market is a great environment for people who want to learn more about delicious sustainable foods, and get all the facts straight from the people who grow it.  The market is a community, and it all comes down to eating healthy and buying locally.

interview1The Corvallis market first started as a club in 1981 by a man named Kenny Reynolds.  It was held every Wednesday, instead of Saturday, and only consisted of about fourteen vendors and brought in the “true believers” crowd.  “True believers” are the people who live, breathe, and eat (literally) sustainable, local foods.  At least that is what Rebecca Landis, the Corvallis market director, called them.

Ms. Landis has been volunteering and working with the Corvallis farmer’s market since the early 90’s, when she first moved into town with her husband.  “After a couple of months spent here, we went to an Organic Growing Club meeting, which led us to the organization.” says Ms. Landis.  As the Corvallis farmer’s market director, she is in charge of everything.  From the vendors who participate, to the musician selection.

Her favorite part about the Corvallis farmer’s market is the use of the community table.  This is where people who have too many apples growing on their tree in their back yard come to sell and make a profit.  The Corvallis farmer’s market is a non-profit organization, which means all the profit the farmers make while selling at the market is theirs to keep.  All the vendors have to do is pay a fee to rent out a place for their tent.

When organizing the Corvallis farmer’s market, the vendors who sell their produce are the highest priority.  In order participate as a vendor, farmers can go to the Corvallis farmer’s market website and apply online, only it is not that simple.  After applying, vendors are then checked by people like Ms. Landis, as they go through a filtering system.  “We select farmers who sell only what they grow, nothing for resale.” as Ms. Landis puts it.  The farms have to be within the counties that are represented through the Local 6 program. The Local 6 consists the Benton, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Polk counties within Oregon.  The idea of the Local 6 program is to ensure that products being sold are not being imported from far away places.  When items, especially perishables like produce, are being imported from out of state, it not only racks up the price for shipping and manufacturing, but all the flavor is being lost.  Keeping the Local 6 within these counties is keeping produce fresh and tasty.

One of the big reasons why Ms. Landis loves the farmer’s market so much is because of its rich diversity.  She loves to see the different types of tomatoes and onions that a person usually does not see in a commercial grocery store.  Rebecca Landis’ interest in “real food” goes way back.  She has been gardening and farming for most of her life, and currently owns a farm with her husband called the Territorial Road Orchard.    “I’m no Martha Stewart, but I cook using products I have grown or bought at the market” she says, referring to the Corvallis farmer’s market.  If she does not buy something from the farmer’s market or from her own gardening, her first stop is the First Alternative Co-op, a great place to shop if a person cannot make it to the farmer’s market.

Many grocery stores like the First Alternative Co-op are popping up across the country, with high standards of what they sell to their customers.  The First Alternative Co-op is similar to the Corvallis farmer’s market in that it also supports the Local 6 program. Although it is not as strict as the farmer’s market, because they allow farmers from all across the state to sell their products.  Their mission statement is, “to be a cooperative model, providing high quality natural and organic products in a community oriented store.”  This grocery store does not just sell fruits and vegetables; they have all different kinds of products to provide to their customers.  There is a whole dry foods section that sells dry pasta and dried herbs.  There is milk, mac and cheese, and bread.  The First Alternative Co-op is basically an average grocery store.  The big difference is that they are filtering out the bad and keeping the good by reading labels and checking the products.

It can be very hard to find quality food nowadays at an average grocery store in the United States because most of what is being sold is from companies focusing on efficiency.  No longer are companies trying to grow high quality products, instead they are striving for efficiency in order to feed America as quick and effective as possible.  This efficiency tactic gets the price down, but at what cost?  These companies are limiting the varieties of produce being grown then spray them with pesticides in order to not deal with the issue of bugs getting to it before they do.

Produce like fruits and vegetables are not the only thing that are being affected by large efficient driven companies.  Animals like pigs, cows, and chickens live in the worst conditions because they legally do not have any rights.  These environments are referred to as CAFO; Confined Animal Feeding Operations.  These three main animals are the victims of CAFO.  They are shoved into cages that are too small for their bodies so they cannot even turn around.  Many of the animals have not and will not ever see sunlight in their lifetime.  They are also shot wit hormones and antibiotics in order to have the maximum amount of produce when it is time to be sent off (Oregon Department of Agriculture, 2004).

Like the growth of farmer’s markets, the growth of concern for these animals are growing larger and larger every year.  According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, there are more regulations being set when it comes to livestock operations.  One of the big issues with CAFO is their abundance of manure that is overlooked, creating an unsanitary living environment for the animals.  This lack of sanitation is what causes the companies to give their animals antibiotics in the first place.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture is currently focusing on this issue by creating an animal waste management plan.  The animal waste management plan lays out everything that needs to be done in regards to the disposal of waste and waste water (Oregon Department of Agriculture, 2004.).

One of the many ways to know what and how a person’s food is being handled is through “organic” certification.  Producers get permission to label their foods as organic when they meet the list of regulations.  Organic foods are free of all chemicals and pesticides, and are only to use natural fertilizers and soil.  In the case of organic produce, the Demeter norms require that the seeds being planted have to come from “bio-dynamically cultivated fields” where no chemicals or pesticides have not been used for three years.  The same goes for the land that is growing the organic goods (Lockeretz, 2007).  It is to be totally separated.

establishingMeeting the Demeter requirements can be hard for farmers to accomplish, but that does not stop the community from doing it themselves.  James Cassidy is the advisor of the Organic Growers Club at Oregon State University, and his love for farming comes naturally to him.  Like Ms. Landis, James has, for most of his life, been interested in farming and gardening.  It took him out of New York City and brought him to Corvallis, Oregon so that he could focus more on this lifestyle.  The Organic Growers Club was his project that he started in the year 2000.  They have a plot of land right outside downtown Corvallis that is certified organic, and he along with the rest of the club’s members, work on it year round.  When asked to describe the environment, James stated “this land is like a cultural island where you can garden and hang out and chill”.  The club is more like a family, with members who still stick around after they have graduated from Oregon State University.

Walking down the aisle of vendors at the Corvallis farmer’s market, people can find the Organic Growers club selling their organic produce from time to time.  In the recent years, the club has sold two different varieties of blackberries, raspberries, and squash.

The Organic Growers Club is full of students ready and willing to learn, but there are still a large percentage of students who are not as invested.  Taylor Kurabhige is a current student at Oregon State University, and she, like many other college students, usually find their way to the cheapest foods.  “I do not eat unhealthy” Taylor says, “but I do not really look into the information of the foods that I buy.”.  Taylor is currently taking a geography class at Oregon State University that focuses on sustainability.  This class has given her more awareness on how to eat better, and have knowledge about where it comes from.  Although Taylor is not religiously monitoring her groceries, her initiative in taking classes that raise awareness about sustainable living is very inspiring.

closeuphandsOne of the main reasons why college students like Taylor do not prioritize buying more sustainable foods is because of money. Many people within the United States do not have the resources needed to eat healthier.  The Corvallis farmer’s market acknowledges that produce being sold is not cheap, and are involved with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Finneran, 2014).  This program provides “nutrition assistance to low-income households to reduce hunger and improve health and well-being” (Finneran, 2014).  Within the United states, about fourteen percent of people are not getting enough nutritious foods to meet their dietary needs.  With the inclusion of SNAP within the Corvallis farmer’s market, it allows low-income customers to meet those needs, buy locally, and not have to worry about the expense.

Farmer’s markets may be a trend that runs parallel to the “hipster” movement, or that people are becoming more aware of what they are putting into their body.  Nevertheless, it keeps the United States and the world moving in the right direction.  This creates a change that occurred at the Corvallis farmer’s market from its original beginnings.  No longer is it just the “true believers” showing up.  Nowadays, families, students, couples, and dogs are showing up to the farmer’s market, and supporting the idea of sustainable farming.  It is a community of teachers and students who want to see a change in the way food is being handled.

As things wind down at the Saturday farmer’s market in Corvallis, Oregon, people slowly filter out.  The musicians have gone home, leaving the flowing sound of the Willamette River as background noise.  It is mid day and the sun is shining directly over everyone’s head.  Farmers talk and laugh to each other as they pack their remaining goods away.  People are working hard to take down tents and return first street back to normal, as if they have never been there in the first place.  As Ms. Landis summarized, it is ok that not everyone who comes to the Corvallis farmer’s market is a “true believer”, they come and have an experience.  With the memory of a beautiful day at the farmer’s market, it will hopefully spark an interest and will stay interested.  Even if they move away and never come back, they will find another market that shares the same value
s and community as the Corvallis farmer’s market.

Sources:

Finnegan, Kathleen B. “Farmers’ Markets and Food Access: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use at the Corvallis and Albany, Oregon Farmers Markets.” (2014): n. pag. Web.

Lockeretz, William. Organic Farming: An International History. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print

“Oregon Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Division Confined Animal Feeding Operations Program.” Oregon State Library: State Employee Information Center. Department of Agriculture, 28 Sept. 2004. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

 

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