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Farmers Market opens for business on May 17

by: Cliff Newell, 
Maddie Ovenell, left, and Kathy Kern are welcoming Annabelle (the mannequin) as the symbol of the 2008 Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market. Huge crowds will again be coursing through Millennium Park Plaza for 22 Saturdays, starting May 17.

The Lake Oswego Farmers' Market is always a tremendous success.

But Kathy Kern, Farmers' market and special events coordinator for the city Lake Oswego, says there is one problem.

'People are always calling to ask why we haven't started yet,' Kern said.

That's a good problem to have. So for those many folks for whom the Lake Oswego Farmers' Market can't arrive soon enough, May 17 is just around the corner. Once again, thousands will be flooding Millennium Plaza Park for fresh local farm produce, wonderful food and many specialized products.

The best thing you can say about the market is that a good time is had by all - by the up to 7,000 people who attend, the 80 vendors and the dogs who come to Doggie Daycare.

'We had 165,000 people who came last year, and that was a record,' said Kern, who started the market several years ago. 'It is consistently doing better. We don't have official records on sales, but most of our vendors said they made more money than the year before.'

There is a new person in charge of keeping all those customers and vendors happy. Maddie Ovenell has taken the position of market manager, and she has the right blend of youth and experience for the task. The Washington native has managed a YMCA and been a special events director for a college.

Best of all, she's a true believer in farmers' markets.

'I love farmers' markets,' Ovenell said. 'I love what they try to do and what they mean to the community and how they support local agriculture.'

Of the vendors, Kern and Ovenell could afford to be selective since, Kern said, 'We get an awful lot of calls. We have a nice waiting list.'

Of course, many friendly, familiar and popular vendors will be returning, such as Lowhill Bakery, maker of some of the freshest and best donuts anywhere; Baird Family Orchards, specialists in delicious fruit and produce; and Vang's Garden, whose fresh cut flowers always win high praise.

But there will be many new faces, too, like Two Tarts cookie bakery; Mulino Valley Farms, which offers an amazing 15 varieties of garlic; Zoe Ann's Cheesecakes, reported to be decadently delicious, and more.

Then there will be the entertainment. Twenty-two stage acts have been lined up by booker Dick Saunders, and all of this lively musical talent will again turn the market into a happening place to be this summer and fall.

One nice new feature will be a recipe raffle, in which a basket of ingredients for a vendor's special recipe will be given away.

Sustainability became a big thing at last year's LOFM, and the market will stay on the same track this year with a wide variety of sustainability features, including composting of food waste, which now has a special name: ORT. Also, hydration stations will be the norm.

New Seasons market is again serving as market manager, while Umpqua Bank is stage sponsor.

Could there be a cloud on this year's market? Like high gas prices? Kern does not think so.

'If anything, I'm inclined to think the high gas prices will help us,' Kern said. 'There is a rising concern about eating locally and buying safe food. With gas so high, people are much more inclined to shop close to home.'

The Lake Oswego Farmers' Market will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Millennium Plaza Park is adjacent to Lake View Village at the corner of First and Evergreen streets.

For more information about the market, go to the city of Lake Oswego Web site at www.ci.oswego.or.us .