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Fall is an especially delicious time to check out the market (column)



PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH WEST - Shoppers can find fresh and flavorful local produce at a great value at Hillsdale Farmers Market, says columnist Gerogina Young-Ellis.What is more wonderful on a crisp fall day than perusing booths of seasonal vegetables and fruits, local meats and seafood, baked goods, dairy products and other items that will delight your taste buds and benefit your health?

Not much that I can think of.

YOUNG-ELLISThough the Portland State University Farmers Market is probably the biggest in town, it feels more like a weekly event than a local tradition. On the other hand, there’s something innately satisfying about being able to just pop over to the Hillsdale Farmers Market on a Sunday, right here in our own neighborhood, where it sets up in the parking lot of Rieke Elementary school at 1405 S.W. Vermont St.

The last time I was there, I scooped up freshly caught salmon, vine-perfect tomatoes, a handy bag of baby lettuce, some crunchy local apples, late-season zucchini and a pint of the last strawberries of the summer. When it comes to buying fresh, local produce, I find a grocery store simply does not compare to the flavor and value available at the farmers market.

Oh sure, I might be able to find a zucchini for a few pennies less in the bins of grocery stores, many of which certainly sell — at least for part of the year — some local produce. But it’s never the same in freshness as what I find at the farmers market, where growers bring their wares straight from field to market.

We all know that a store-bought tomato almost never compares to what the local farmer grows (or what we grow in our own backyards), and strawberries imported from California are a far cry from the delicious red nuggets harvested from nearby farms. Yes, OK, we won’t find all the items at the farmers market that we get used to having year-round from the grocery store (like kiwis and avocados, for example), but the fruits and veggies at the former ensure that we are always buying seasonal, as well as local.

That’s better for the local economy, better for the environment (fossil fuels aren’t being used to ship products long distances) and better for our palate.

And what about fish, meats, eggs, etc.? Again, it all comes down to supporting our local farmers and fishermen and getting items for our table that have been lovingly, humanely and often organically raised, or caught with sustainability in mind.

At Hillsdale Farmers Market, you can even grab a little lunch from some of the booths that sell prepared foods, like soup or tamales. You can also pick up a delicious loaf of freshly baked bread, pies, muffins or other goodies, or a beautiful bouquet of seasonal flowers. I never come away from the market with anything less than some new discovery and a feeling that I’ve participated in my community in a very special, and kind of basic, way.

So that all income levels can benefit, the farmers market accepts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card (as most markets do), which can be swiped at the info booth in exchange for tokens. In order to make the SNAP purchases go even farther, Hillsdale Farmers Market participates in the Double Up Food Bucks statewide program, which means that SNAP participants can receive up to $10 in matching funds by purchasing tokens at the market’s information booth; they then get $20 for their SNAP purchases instead of $10.

Sarah West, who manages the farmers market, shared with me that Hillsdale’s matching program is unique, because it is not being run by a USDA grant. Hillsdale Farmers Market does 100 percent of the matching and the fundraising itself. This helps the program overall and, by proxy, helps fund markets that are less well off.

Businesses can donate at various financial levels, including sponsoring a booth at the market, and the market accepts public donations as well. West is usually at the info booth, or you can speak to the volunteers there too. For more information, contact West at [email protected]

farmersmarket.com or check out the market’s website at hillsdalefarmersmarket.com

The market is open every Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. from May until the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and twice monthly from December through April. I couldn’t rate our wonderful Hillsdale Farmers Market as anything less than Extraordinarily Sincere!

Georgina Young-Ellis moved to Multnomah from Queens, N.Y., in 2015. She explores the world outside of big-box chain stores to find local businesses intent on customer service, customer satisfaction and a pleasurable customer experience. To read more about her experiences at Portland-area shops, visit Searching4Sincerity.com.

Georgina’s Sincerity Scale

Extraordinarily sincere — Great customer service; high-quality products at appropriate prices; local, sustainable or eco-friendliness given high priority. Makes me want to bring my mom.

Very sincere — Notable customer service; better-than-average-quality products; some thought given to sustainability, etc. They actually seem to care.

Pretty sincere — Working hard to make me believe they’re extraordinarily sincere, but there are some cracks in the facade.

Not sincere at all — Customer walking in the door viewed simply as a dollar sign.

Not even in the ballpark — Poor customer service; price gouging; salespeople only available if they think I’m going to steal something.

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