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Local food, farmers get star treatment at ceremony

Two organizations are celebrating local food this month in a big way.

Ecotrust is holding a public event to announce this year's six Local Hero Award winners — those who exemplify high standards in their social and environmental practices, food sourcing, regional economic impact, and commitment to promoting a sustainable food system.

There are six categories: Farm/Ranch, Restaurant, Food Artisan, Beverage Artisan, Nonprofit, and Retailer.

The nominations were made by the public, narrowed down by a selection committee, and about 2,000 individuals voted online for their winner in each category.

The event will feature a true "Portlandia"-inspired trifecta: locally made brats, kraut and brew.

The event is set for 7 to 10 p.m. at the Ecotrust Building, 721 N.W. Ninth Ave. The award ceremony begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $32 per person, all food and drink included. All proceeds benefit Ecotrust food and farming initiatives.

Learn more at www.ecotrust.org/events/localhero.

Farmers' markets get a boost

Also this month, New Seasons Market is distributing grants to 34 local nonprofits dedicated to strengthening the region's network of small farms, and improving access to fresh, local food.

To celebrate the market's 13th birthday, the grant fund will award $85,000 to dozens of neighborhood farmers markets that are working to subsidize food access to communities in need and assist minority farmers.

"Supporting the local farming community and addressing hunger relief is a vital part of our 13-year history and our future," said Wendy Collie, New Seasons new president and chief executive officer. "We are passionate about sustaining a healthy regional food economy that connects our local food producers to our community of shoppers, and are proud to support the work of our grantees."

This year's grant awards, ranging from $450 to $5,000, went to 27 neighborhood farmers markets for projects focused on better serving their communities.

Sixteen of the markets will use some or all of their grant funds to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars used by low-income shoppers.

Three markets, Cully Community Market, Lloyd Farmers Market and St. Johns Farmer's Market, will partner with community organizations to identify families and individuals experiencing high levels of need and provide them with vouchers that can be redeemed at the market.

Lloyd Farmers Market and Cully Community Market will use New Seasons' funding to subsidize the vendor fees of underrepresented or minority farmers.

Grants also went to organizations that support local, small-scale farming, many of which work to end systemic issues surrounding poverty and hunger, including Zenger Farm, Foodand Mercy Corps Northwest.

The Oregon City Farmers Market has been sponsored by New Seasons since 2008.

"With their support, we have been able to grow and to serve more low-income customers year-round by offering Oregon Trail cardholders a match of up to $5 on their purchase of fresh, healthy foods from our vendors," says Jackie Hammond-Williams, who manages that market. "New Seasons' support has also inspired others in our community to support the SNAP program. This year, we will have more than $3,500 in matching funds to offer to SNAP eligible customers."