by: RITA A. LEONARD - The famed Sellwood Middle School Marimba Band once again provided the music for the opening on May 15th of the eighth Moreland Farmers Market. The nonprofit market will have consistent Wednesday afternoon hours of 3-7 pm throughout the season this year.The nonprofit Moreland Farmers Market opened its eighth year under grey skies, and amidst scattered showers, on Wednesday, May 15. Shoppers greeted old friends, tried free samples, and filled their bags with fresh produce. The featured vendor for opening day was “Think Unique Gardens”, and the Sellwood Middle School Marimba Band returned to perform.

Suzanne Brillat of Think Unique Gardens offered organic plant starts and fresh eggs to the opening day crowd. “I have no rhyme or reason with my plants here,” she admitted. “I carry them just because they're beautiful. I have lots of exotic herbs, such as cumin; weigela, old-fashioned roses, mock orange, and a variety of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant starts.” She waved her arm over a table of tomato starts. “I try to match these with the specific needs of each person,” she said. “I ask how much sun they have, if they’re looking for sweet, salty, or acidic fruit, and what size they’d like. There are so many different colors and flavors here – you can make a wonderful salad just using different tomato varieties.”

Charles and Rachel Stephens from Stephens Farm in Dayton, located near the market entrance, handed out free samples of sweet, juicy “Honeye” strawberries. They also displayed kale, chard, snow peas, and Walla Walla onions. A succession of colorful booths featured fresh asparagus, Mexican fare, artisan sausages by Urban German, and a knife sharpener, with a tiny black puppy on hand to greet customers.

A first-time vendor was David Bantz of “He Sells These Shells”, who offered sacks of hazelnut shells he obtains from a processor. “They make great mulch for pathways and ground cover, and keep away cats, weeds, and slugs,” he said. “Last year I sold 450,000 pounds of shells. They’re a cheaper alternative to chemical slug bait. I also sell squirrel food.” Bantz is a Cleveland High School graduate – whose son-in-law teaches at nearby Llewellyn Elementary School.

Another first-timer at this year’s Moreland Farmers Market was Alex Gerou, owner of Pacific Northwest Kale Chips. “I opened just off S.E. 13th and Powell last year, in Portland Juice Press’s former kitchen,” he revealed. “I offer all-vegan, gluten-free, raw Kale Chips in four different flavors.” The dark green bagged chips are healthier than other snacks, he asserted, and come flavored with cilantro-lime-jalapeno, organic Oregon hazelnut, cheezy cashew crunch, and Cascade ranch.

New flavors was the watchword for many vendors this year who feature unique market products. Brett Aube (pronounce it “Obie”, he explained) of “Conundrum” was a new vendor displaying sacks and samples of “Unordinary Granola” packed into the market with an old-fashioned suitcase. “I decided to combine some new flavors in my granola, and they seem to be going over well,” he smiled: “Maple-Bacon-Praline; Cherry Pistachio: and Maple Pine Nut.” New vendor Geanna Marek, a former library assistant from Vancouver, made a major career change by turning to allergy-free baking. Her business, “Cinnamon”, is less than a year old, but her pastry is already being sold at Sellwood’s “Cravin’ Raven”. “I love to bake, and I knew the types of things I was baking are hard to find, because they’re vegan, gluten-free, and free of allergens,” she explained. “I mainly make doughnuts, cupcakes, and cookies, although I also bake seasonal pies and breads. I also offer a ‘Treat-of-the-Month Club’ program, delivering allergen-free baked goods right to your door.”

Other new vendors – featuring mustard, hard cider, and orchard fruits – will join the market later in the season, according to the market management. Meanwhile, the Westmoreland site each Wednesday afternoon offers cut flowers, fruits and vegetables, plant starts, honey, sausages, crepes, omelets, live music, and a Kids’ Arts & Crafts Center.

The location of the Moreland Farmers Market remains Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial parking lot at S.E. 14th and Bybee Boulevard, and this year the market’s hours will be 3-7 pm all season long.

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