Farmers Market opens Saturday

By Bill Rautenstrauch May 18, 2011 03:29 pm

The opening session of the La Grande Farmers Market takes place  9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Saturday market continues through Oct. 22. Tuesday  sessions begin June 7 and continue through Oct. 18.
The opening session of the La Grande Farmers Market takes place 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Saturday market continues through Oct. 22. Tuesday sessions begin June 7 and continue through Oct. 18.

With live music sounding in the air and vendors laying out the best of their home-grown products, the La Grande Farmers Market rolls out another season in Max Square at Adams Avenue and Fourth Street Saturday.

Each year from May to October, the market offers shoppers the chance to hook up with local producers and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, specialty foods, quality meat, eggs, arts and crafts and more.

Market Director Beth Wasley said Saturday’s opener should draw 15 to 20 vendors. They’ll have plenty of room to spread out, since for a second year in a row Fourth Street from Adams to the alley behind Mamacita’s restaurant will be closed to vehicles.

“That was a great success last year. We’ve got more space for vendors, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about it from customers,” Wasley said.

Wasley said some vendors who were on the scene last year have opted not to participate in 2011, but new ones have stepped in to take their places.

Among the fresh faces is farmer Ryan Casaray, offering produce grown organically in Medical Springs, and Tim Wilson, whose organically grown tomatoes will be ready to eat earlier in the season than usual because they’re grown in greenhouses.

Also joining the Farmers Market mix this year is the Gilstrap Bothers Winery. The well-known company will offer the fine wines it makes and bottles in Cove.

“I’m really excited to have a local winery at our market,” Wasley said.

Many of the vendors Wasley calls the “old faithfuls” are returning, including T.D. Farms, Mia’s Garden, Arrowleaf Farms, Kneads Bakery, Aimmee’s Garden and more. At the height of the season last year, 24 vendors were displaying wares.

Live music is always a part of the market. For this year’s opener, local youngsters from La Grande High School and Middle School under the direction of music teacher Karla Arnold take center stage. The performance will include African drumming, a dance demonstration and more.

Arnold is also producing a performance for the opener of the Tuesday Farmers Market June 7.

Live entertainment is just part of the fun. Continuing a tradition she began last year, Wasley will conceal a stuffed animal in the form of a chicken somewhere around the market. Kids coming across it get a prize.

Leah Starr, owner of Kneads Bakery, is again in charge of arranging musical entertainment for the market. Starr brings in local acts all season long. Recently, she produced a sampler of songs played during market sessions.

The CD, priced at $10, is on sale in local stores, and also will be available at the market. Proceeds go to support market activities.

Wasley had words of praise for Starr and her efforts to keep market patrons entertained.

“She does it all and we wouldn’t have live music at the market without her,” Wasley said.

Wasley said another Farmers Market member providing key services is Gray McGuire, who works to make sure the market has a vigorous web presence.

“He makes sure we’re on Facebook and Twitter, and he keeps up our community page. He really keeps us in the social current,” Wasley said.

The opening session of the Farmers Market takes place 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Saturday market continues through Oct. 22. Tuesday sessions begin June 7 and continue through Oct. 18.

The market accepts the Oregon Trail Card, vouchers from the Oregon Farm Direct Nutrition Program and WIC fruit and veggie vouchers.