Sometime after the official start March 20, signs of spring slowly start popping up one at a time. In La Grande, one of the surest signs is the annual kickoff of the farmers market.
CONVERTED ANTIQUE: La Grande resident Ken Bruce, center, bought and restored an antique two-wheeled cart, then donated it the Union County Chamber of Commerce to display at local events. The cart will be set up as an information center at the La Grande Farmers Market this year. Others in the picture include farmers market members Karl Sutton, Kathleen Evergreen and Randy Moore (left), and, (right) farmers market member Darci Jones, Rona Lindsey of the chamber and Janet Rose Marie, farmers market manager. The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Preparations for another year are pretty much complete, so mark Saturday, May 16, on your calendar. That day, the market returns for another season.
The market is many things, but mainly it’s a chance to buy local produce from local growers, said Janet Rose Marie, a La Grande resident who is stepping in as manager this year.“It’s good to have a relationship with the farmer, and to know where the food you eat is coming from,” she said. “The food is more nutrient-rich, and you get to talk to the people who grew it and picked it.”
The market was begun in 1980, and has survived since then in several different locations.
In the beginning, it was called the Blue Mountain Local Producers Market. Its aim was the same as it is today: to support and promote the local production of vegetables, fruits, and other produce.
Goods featured at the market include fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, eggs, meat, baked goods and more. It isn’t rare for shoppers to find cut flowers, potted perennials, and homemade arts and crafts.
Marie said that early in the season, vendors will be bringing spinach, greens, radishes and nursery garden starts among other products.
Variety will increase as the season continues. Information on available products is updated weekly on the farmers market website, www.lagrandefarmersmarket.org.
Organizers are always looking to improve the market, adding features that enhance the experience. One attraction people can count on is live music, played by local musicians, from 9 a.m. to noon each Saturday.
Leah Starr, owner of Kneads Bakery, lined up this year’s performers. For the May 16 opener, Al MacLeod and Friends will take the stage.
Shoppers who might want a bite to eat while they shop or listen to the music will be able to buy prepared foods from several vendors. Businesses offering food and refreshments on-site include Mamacita’s, Joe and Sugar’s and Kneads’ Bakery.
“We’re looking for more people to provide prepared foods,” Marie said.
New to the market this year is an old-time wheeled cart that will be used as an information center. Farmers market members will be standing by to answer questions customers may have.
La Grande resident Ken Bruce found the cart at an antique store in Canyon City. He said he couldn’t resist buying it and bringing it home.
“I’m a retired electrician, a mechanic and a builder, and I like to tinker with things,” he said.
He said the cart probably was built between 1910-1920, and likely was used by workmen to haul hand tools. It was designed to be horse-drawn.
Bruce repaired wheels and bearings, and added new finish while being careful to preserve the Moline Tractor Company logo. He also designed a cloth canopy bearing the names of The Farmers’ Market, Union County Chamber of Commerce and Union County Tourism.
Bruce donated the cart to the chamber, which makes it available for local events.
Marie said market customers should find the information center a handy feature.
“We’ll have a central place where we can answer questions about food stamps and the Women’s Infants and Children program, and also give information about farmers market membership,” she said.
Also this year, the market hopes to operate a children’s booth each Saturday, offering educational activities for the younger set.
“It’s kind of in the works,” Marie said. “The idea is to get the kids involved a little more. There’s been a kids’ activity once a month, but we’d like to see it every week.”
From May 16 to Oct. 24, the market will be open each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Starting July 7, Tuesday markets will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
The market is supported mostly through vendors fees, and also community memberships.
Marie said that some local restaurants — notably Foley Station and Ten Depot — also support the market by purchasing produce there.
Over a dozen vendors have signed up so far to sell their wares at the market in 2009, and Marie said there is room for more.
She said she is looking forward to a successful season.
“We want farmers to pick their veggies and fruits, and sell out before they go home,” she said.