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Farmers Market wraps up another big year in 2007

by: , Fresh produce was just one of the many offerings that drew people to the Lake Oswego Farmer’s Market.

The Lake Oswego Farmer's Market of 2007 had a difficult act to follow: The Lake Oswego Farmer's Market of 2006.

But the market again had a great year, swinging through the spring and summer with 6,000 to 7,000 folks flocking to Millennium Plaza Park every Saturday, before shutting down on Oct. 13.

Kathy Kern, farmers market and special events coordinator for the city of Lake Oswego, won't be ready to say it was the best farmer's market ever until all the surveys are turned in. But she does smile a lot when talking about the farmers market.

'I loved it,' she said.

First off, Kern had kudos for Mary Miller, who was in her second year as manager of the farmer's market.

'Mary did a really fine job,' Kern said. 'The basics were established and she is keeping those and making improvements.'

Everything new turned out all right, including the merchants' service in which tokens were used to purchase goods.

'It was a wonderful change,' Kern said. 'It was convenient and easy, and it was a nice way to promote the market.'

This was not something the farmer's market jumped on right away. Other markets had previously used such a service.

'We'd thought it might be kind of a pain,' Kern said, 'but it didn't turn out that way at all. We had $1,000 to $2,000 go through every day of the market.'

Kern was also pleased to see that the effort to promote sustainability worked out well. Water bottles were banned and water stations with compostible cups were used instead.

'We were worried at first, but people were very receptive,' she said.

Kern added she was especially pleased when she found a little girl who put in water stations with her own Lake Oswego Farmer's Market dollhouse.

The city of Lake Oswego has been able to make innovations and improvements because the basic appeal of the market is so strong. In fact, it seems more like a 'happening' than just a farmer's market, with the many vendors, Doggy Day Care and musical performers.

All of these things make the quarters at Millennium Plaza a little tight, but it is well worth it for the farmers who bring their produce. They, of course, are the backbone of the market's success.

'We're living in times where there's a new emphasis on eating locally,' Kern said. 'People are now concerned with our carbon footprint. That has enhanced and built up farme's markets around the whole state.

'Our local citizens have a lot of education and savvy about this. They want to know where their food is coming from.'

Expansion of the market is not in the works, even if it seems almost too popular at times.

'Bigger is not necessarily better,' Kern said. 'We want this market to be for the farmers out there, and that's our goal.

'We work hard not to be commercial. We have one business per week and a couple nonprofits every week.'

Before the market says goodbye until May of 2008, Kern wanted to thank some people who make it possible, including the volunteers, who work at the market out of sheer love for Lake Oswego, and 'the really good music,' which has largely been the work of Dick Saunders of the Portland Symphony. His many contacts keep the market well supplied with talent.

Kern, who founded the market in 2001, can afford to spend a winter of content.

'Every farmer's market develops its own personality,' she said. 'Ours has proven to be a special event. People come to drink coffee, meet with friends and then go to the farmer's market.

'Millennium Plaza has proven to be one of the best investments the city ever made.'