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Farmers' market sprouts in Aloha

Weekly market seen as another sign Aloha is reaching its potential.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Araceli De La Cruz, owner of La Popular, serves up a Mexican dish for a customer at the Aloha market.Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten looked around last week and saw plenty of empty spaces between about 10 booths at the first Aloha Community Farmers' Market.

But where some might have seen empty blacktop, Schouten saw possibilities.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Colorful Celosia plants provide color at the Sun Gold Farm booth at the Aloha market.“I see it growing,” Schouten told the small crowd gathered to launch the market on May 5 and perhaps pick up a pint of the season’s first strawberries, grab some plants for the garden or perhaps dip into some artisan catsup. “It’s going to be a big market.”

“It’s such a great opportunity to bring the community together,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who also was on hand to mark the occasion. “This has been years in the making.”

The market will be open from 3 p.m. until about 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 15. It is located outside Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, on the Southwest Kinnaman Road side of the Aloha Mall.

The church, Bales Thriftway and many other businesses and individuals contributed to help the Aloha Business Association launch the market, according to Karen Bolin, the business group’s president.

A farmers’ market has become a priority in Aloha in recent years, including one of the top goals to arise out of the county’s Aloha-Reedville Study that concluded in 2014, Bolin said. An attempt to start a market on Tualatin Valley Highway several years ago never quite gelled, but didn’t have the backing of so many in the community, Bolin added.

“We’re seeing a lot of happy people walk through here,” said Taurino Virgen, co-founder of Dogo Bros. Kettlecorn.

TIMES CREDIT: JAIME VALDEZ - Janet Dowty of Southwest Portland looks at the plants at Sun Gold Farm of Forest Grove, one of the first vendors to sell at the Aloha Community Farmers' Market.The Aloha Community Farmers Market’s arrival is yet another sign that Aloha is emerging as a community that, for years, often seemed to have more promise than progress.

Besides the market, this is the year that the Aloha Community Library joins Washington County Cooperative Library Services and Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District breaks ground on a large sports and neighborhood park.

“I can just feel this thing growing,” said Schouten, adding that it’s an “exciting time in Aloha.”

Kody Harris, the market manager, has been planning for 18 months, finding a location, finding sponsors, vendors and donors, and working on endless logistics.

“From the beginning, it was a lot of networking,” Harris said. “We did a lot of outreach.”

She hopes to increase the number of vendors to about 20 by July, including more farm-fresh produce that will improve the area’s access to healthy foods while building a sense of community closer to home.

“Most people in this area can’t afford (the time) to travel to Hillsboro or Beaverton” to attend established markets there, she said.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Nanci Crum of Aloha tries a sample of Red Duck Ketchup from Michael Visenberg at the new Aloha Community Farmers'  Market.“I think this event is such a blessing for the Aloha community,” said Priscilla Roberts, president of the Westside Cruisers car club, whose members brought several of their classic cars to the event.

Like many Aloha residents, she previously had to travel out of her community to find a farmers market.

“It’s just fun to see people I actually know from the neighborhood,” she said.

Araceli de la Cruz, who owns La Popular catering services, said she has served her Mexican cuisine at markets in Cedar Mill, Hillsboro and Forest Grove, but now has switched her Thursday sales to Aloha — just down the street from her home.

“I like this because it’s very close,” she said between a steady stream of customers.

“I am so excited. We didn’t have (a farmers market) when I lived here,” said former Aloha resident Laurie McCulley from her Simply Dogalicious booth, where she sells dog treats and toys. “Once people understand that it’s here … I think it’s going to be a huge success.”

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The band Cilantro entertains market-goers. Eric Johnston is on percussion, Dusty Richards on bass and Brendan Diezon on guitar.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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