Unusually warm weather contributes to May 4 success, vendors say

The 31st annual Hillsboro Farmers’ Market kicked off last Saturday with gorgeous blue skies, warm temperatures and a big crowd. The combination added up to a busy day for enthusiastic farmers, with some claiming it was the best opening day they could HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Fresh asparagus from Washingtons Yakima Valley proved to be a very popular item on opening day of the 2013 Farmers Market.

A two-block stretch of Main Street around the Hillsboro Civic Center was closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the festive marketplace, which drew hundreds of prospective gardeners and those looking for fresh goods to bring home to their kitchens.

Although it is still too early for area farmers to have much of the region’s vegetables and fruits on hand, sellers lined the streets with a variety of plant starts, fresh flowers, honey, pies and unique items such as sock HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Customers flocked to Our Little Farm & Nursery, a Hillsboro business, to snap up tomato plant starts on Saturday as the 31st annual Hillsboro Farmers Market started a new season. Our Little Farm & Nursery, owned by Lisa and Randy Goldbeck, had about 200 different varieties of tomato plants on sale.

“There are more people here than on opening day last year,” said Sandy Tribble of Hillsboro, owner of Sandy’s Sock Monkeys. “People have been holed up all year and want to get out. This is incredible weather.”

Tribble said she has been coming to the downtown Farmers’ Market for the past two years with her colorful sock creatures, and the event has been productive.

“I started out making sock monkeys as gifts, and thought this would be a good place to go. I sold nearly 100 of them last year,” Tribble said.

Tribble said her designs are much different from the standard gray ones with the red butt that come in a kit, because she uses a variety of wildly diverse socks in her creations.

“There is just something about them, and there is something for everybody,” Tribble said. “Last year, a woman bought one for her son serving in Afghanistan.”

At the other end of the block, Daniel Hernandez said he had driven down from Washington’s Yakima Valley to sell a truckload of freshly-harvested asparagus. Although the driving time to Hillsboro takes nearly three hours, Hernandez said the trip is well worth the investment.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” Hernandez said. “This is one of the better markets in the Northwest.”

Hernandez, who works for Zillah, Wash.-based Profarm Produce, said the asparagus he was selling for $4 per bundle had been harvested just the day before.

“It’s picked fresh and we bring it right down,” he explained.

Business was very brisk as Hernandez and a helper bagged bundle after bundle of the pale green vegetable for a growing line of customers.

Hernandez said he loves the market in Hillsboro, but he has one complaint: “The start time was a little late,” Hernandez explained. “We were here at 8 a.m. and people wanted to buy, but we can’t sell before the market opens.”

Hernandez added that his booth would have more produce later in the season.

“Right now it’s just asparagus, but later we’ll have fruit — peaches and cherries,” he said.

Those selling plant starts were also swamped with customers.

Hillsboro’s Our Little Farm & Nursery had a wide variety of tomato plants for sale.

“We have a lot of plants — 200 different types of tomatoes,” said Randy Goldbeck, co-owner of the farm with his wife, Lisa.

Prospective gardeners were lining up with visions of ripe, red tomatoes later this summer.

“When it’s sunny, you know you’ll be busy,” Goldbeck said. “This is the nicest opening day I’ve seen in a long time.”

Goldbeck noted that Our Little Farm & Nursery has been a mainstay at the Hillsboro Framers’ Market.

“We’ve been here since the 1990s,” he said.

With the Farmers’ Market setting up in the business district, downtown business owners said they were ecstatic to see the vastly increased pedestrian HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Sun Gold Farm, a Forest Grove business, had an assortment of colorful dahlias and other flowering ornamental  plants for sale. The bright blooms attract pollinating insects, so they are beneficial for any garden.

“We love the market. Any event that can bring lots of people downtown is great,” said Dawn Sellers, owner of Primrose & Tumbleweeds, a restaurant and wine bar at 248 E. Main.

“This is really busy, and it’s so beautiful out,” added Tina Jacobsen, owner of Jacobsen’s Books at 211 E. Main. “I’ve never seen the first market like this. It’s a great start to the season.”

The bustle of activity attracted some passersby who had not previously visited the Farmers’ Market.

Andrea Cleland, a student at Century High School, said it was her first time visiting the marketplace.

“I’ve been to Saturday Market in Portland, but never to Hillsboro’s market before,” Cleland said. “There are a lot of homemade jams, and I like the flowers and the many types of Oriental foods. If I would have brought more money, it would have been more fun.”

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