Farmers Market mecca
Forest Grove's downtown core will turn into a festival this afternoon when the annual farmers market makes its 2012 debut on Main Street
Main Street will burst into bloom when the 2012 Forest Grove Farmers Market opens for the season today.
Flower bouquets and fresh produce won't be the only colorful offering as the market, managed by local nonprofit Adelante Mujeres, launches its seventh season May 16. Homemade crafts, plant starts, clothing and food are also on the vendor list at the popular Wednesday afternoon venue.
Overseeing it all will be Kaely Summers, the market's new manager, who replaced Gina Bell in the position this spring after Bell left for a position in Portland.
'I've never managed a market before, so this is a new thing for me,' said the 25-year-old Pacific University graduate, who holds a degree in international studies. 'I've been a customer of the market since it opened, though.'
Summers - who's originally from Tacoma, Wash., but has lived in Forest Grove for seven years - has been working as an Americorps VISTA member at Pacific's Center for Civic Engagement for the past two years.
Event planning and volunteer recruitment have been her main responsibilities. Summers started a 'Give and Go' project on Pacific's Forest Grove campus, collecting 'all the leftover stuff college students leave behind' when classes are on hiatus.
That activity gave her a huge advantage when it came to preparing for this week's market debut.
'I feel like we're ready,' said Summers. 'I'm excited to get the first one out of the way so my nerves aren't so jangly.'
Fluent in Spanish, Summers has volunteered as a translator for sewing classes at Adelante Mujeres, which helps connect low-income Latina women and their families connect with job skills and educational opportunities. Her bilingual capability will allow her to communicate effectively with some of the market's Hispanic vendors and customers.
'We've got a few new things in the works,' said Summers, who, along with her outreach assistant, Mayra Hernandez, is planning market activities several weeks in advance.
The twosome is focusing on something new for children age 12 and under who come to the market with their parents. 'Kids' Club' will run for 11 weeks while school is out of session for the summer.
One club activity will be called 'Market Sprouts,' an opportunity for little ones to 'learn about farming and healthy foods - that nutrition thing we're trying to get across,' Summers said with a chuckle.
Kids will receive a bag containing a 'passport' and stickers for participating in tasting tables and other nutrition-related initiatives. 'It's going to be great to see them having fun and learning new things at the same time,' noted Summers.
The number of booths at the market this afternoon might seem sparse compared to several dozen that will line Main Street and 21st Avenue on the first Wednesdays of June, July, August, September and October - once the weather begins to stay consistently warm.
'That's when we'll continue to add to the produce selection,' Summers said.
Right away, market-goers will see plant starts, particularly salad greens, vegetables and herbs. In a few weeks, they can expect berries and summertime veggies for purchase at reasonable prices.
Local musicians will appear at the market over the next five months as well.
In the meantime, there'll be plenty to eat at the farmers market, which last year attracted a weekly crowd of more than 1,500 visitors. The community event, which began in 2005, also serves as a small business incubator for people participating in the Adelante Agricultura and Adelante Empresas programs sponsored by Adelante Mujeres - including those building up food services, which stick around through good weather and poor.
'Our hot food vendors will pretty much stay consistent throughout the season,' which runs through Oct. 17, Summers said.