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Farmers market celebrates 15 years


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jackson Ryan (shown here in 2012) sells coffee at his family's stand, Jackson's Place, every week at the Lake Oswego Farmers' Market.Lisa Shaw-Ryan’s son, Jackson, was born on a Thursday. That Saturday, she and her husband, Chuck, began selling coffee at the first Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market.

“And now our son works the booth,” Shaw-Ryan says. “He’s 14 years old. He sells coffee there and that will continue to be his job to help him pay for college.”

“He has his own brand,” she adds.

Indeed, when Jackson turned 12, his parents — who own coffee shop Chuck’s Place on B Avenue — surprised him with his own banner, bearing a logo with his likeness. Their booth became “Jackson’s Place.”

For Shaw-Ryan’s family, it’s easy to keep track of how long the Farmers’ Market’s been in full swing — they know all too well it’s coming up on 15 years. But for most of the vendors and for the city staff that organizes the seasonal event, “we get so caught up in what we’re doing we forget to celebrate!” says Jamie Inglis, event and Farmers’ Market manager for Lake Oswego’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

Inglis plans to remedy that this Saturday, with festivities planned at 12:45 p.m. to thank the vendors and the community for their support. There will be a giant thank-you card, and, of course, cake. This Saturday also marks the last farmers market of the season, and it will feature a performance by a New Orleans-style brass band, Brass Roots Movement.

There is reason for hometown pride in this weekly, spring to fall event: The tiny market that started with 48 vendors now boasts 72, and attendance has nearly tripled since May 2001, when then-City Manager Doug Schmitz helmed efforts to get a seasonal marketplace for fresh produce in Millennium Plaza Park — in large part to bring economic development to the community.

Vendor John O’Sullivan was impressed that the market was the city’s effort.

“It was nice to see a community see the benefit of having a farmers market in their city, as opposed to one being started by the farmers themselves,” he says, noting the “level of commitment” and the quality of the facilities the city offers. “It’s just a different level.”

Sullivan owns Garden Color Nursery, based in Monmouth. He and his wife cover a lot of ground when selling their flowers, also frequenting Salem Saturday Market. He says that when the Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market kicked off, he and his wife welcomed the opportunity to expand into another market, literally and figuratively.

Sullivan has been doing the farmers market circuit since about 1990, he says. He’s seen Lake Oswego’s expand alongside a more broad appreciation of farmers markets in general — “as people become more aware of the benefits of growing local, and buying from someone who actually grows the product,” he says.

“As Lake Oswego’s has become more successful,” he adds, “you’ve seen greater product diversity and farmers offering more crops, and extending their seasons.”

What largely keeps him coming back, Sullivan says, is the people.

“It’s the customers and volunteers and staff,” he says. “My wife and I used to work retail nursery in a different space, and it seems like the customers at the Farmers’ Market want to be at the farmers’ market. It’s a different atmosphere. People go there to meet friends and family — it’s kind of fun to people-watch.”

The Farmers’ Market runs for 22 weeks each year, from mid-May — always starting the Sunday after Mother’s Day — to mid-October. That, says Inglis, marks the “sweet spot” for most farmers’ growing seasons.

And the city strives to make it an inclusive event for all budgets by participating in a nutritional assistance matching program. Customers who hold Oregon Trail Cards are able to go to the market’s merchant services booth to purchase $1 tokens, and receive matching $1 tokens — up to $10 in matched totals — for use at the market.

“When the Farmers’ Market first started, it was so small and it just seemed like a community-minded thing to do,” Shaw-Ryan recalls. “We always knew the market would be a great opportunity to teach our children about earning a living and customer service, and handling money, interaction, community-building, taking pride in your work. That was a big piece for Chuck and I: We knew our kids would end up being a great part of that.”

Saundra Sorenson can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or


If you go

When: 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Anniversary festivities start at 12:45 p.m.) Saturday, Oct. 10

Where: Millennium Plaza Park, 200 First St., Lake Oswego

For more information about the Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market, visit ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec/lake-oswego-farmers-market.