‘Folks have been really receptive’: Oregon City Farmers Market goes to college

The Oregon City Farmers Market, Clackamas County’s only year-round farmers market, recently moved locations to the Clackamas Community College campus.

Located in the college’s green parking lot near the corner of Clairmont Drive and South Beavercreek Road. The new market location has an almost symbiotic relationship with the school’s horticultural center, replete with garden paths and plenty of parking that complement the market’s focus on local agriculture.

“We just started here in our new location, November of 2023, and our opening day of winter season. And it was absolutely pouring and a terribly difficult day weather wise. But folks have been really receptive to our new space,” said market manager Jessica Land.

The market, which began in 2005 in a small gravel lot provided by the county, has grown into the go-to food shopping experience for many county residents.

“We want to be a local place of food access to celebrate our growers and makers within our communities. We also want to be a place for food insecure households to be able to come and shop and utilize food subsidy programs that we offer to also support local and to fill homes with nutrient dense foods,” Land said.

Providing food security for low-income individuals is a cornerstone for the market.

“We offer a couple different grants that allow folks to use their SNAP cards, but also earn, or receive, additional funds that increase their buying power,” Land said. “We have a city grant that allows us to put money on top of that for Oregon City residents. That makes their ability to purchase greater amounts of food, try new varieties and just bring some more food security into our local residents’ homes.”

Between 2011, when the market’s SNAP program was established, through the end of 2022, the Oregon City Farmers Market distributed over $200,000 in SNAP/EBT tokens, just over $100,000 in Double Up Food Bucks and almost $100,000 in POP (Power of Produce) Club tokens by raising funds through government grants and community donations.

The market also focuses on nutrition education for kids.

The market’s POP Club, a nutrition education program for kids that kicked off in 2011, has won national recognition from the Farmers Market Coalition and others. But there’s more to the market than food security and nationally recognized educational programs.

“We’ve got kids programs, kitchen demos, hot food,” Land said. “We want this to be kind of Oregon City’s living room, if you will. We’ve got live music every week. It’s beautiful grounds to walk and kind of kick off a weekend at the market. And all of our growers are in Clackamas County, so we like to consider ourselves hyperlocal.”

Former chef turned farmer Zack Cooper runs Farrah Farms, a Molalla based farm. Cooper, who grew up on a 10-acre farm in Long Island New York, moved onto a 2-acre farm in Molalla in 2023 where the land had lain fallow for nearly four years.

“I grew some micro basil, and that took off, and my friends started buying microgreens,” Cooper said of his unexpected move from chef to farmer. “Turns out I’m still a farm boy at heart.”

Farrah Farms uses strictly regenerative growing practices. They use chicken manure from their own chickens, no pesticides and seek to grow everything as organically as they can.

Cooper discovered the Oregon City Farmers Market while helping out a farmer friend.

“I really like the vibe of Oregon City. I really like the customers,” Cooper said. “They’re very energetic. They’re very happy. They’re also looking for fresh, local produce, and that’s why I chose Oregon City — just because it felt like home.”

Fresh vegetables, flowers and local honey are just some of the great finds available at the market. With Oregon City’s location on the border of suburban and rural, it’s no surprise to also find pasture raised meats like those provided by Campfire Farms out of Molino which specializes in pork, chicken and duck.

“We’re carbon neutral, which is really cool, and a lot of the dollars that you spend with us, it stays in Clackamas County,” said Christina Menchini of Campfire Farms. “Our pigs are born on the farm. Our feed mill is at Union Mills. It’s five minutes away. Slaughterhouses in Molino, and then the customer is right here in Oregon City. So it’s super local, and it supports jobs in the community and feeds the people in the community.”

For vendors, it’s the shoppers who make the market what it is.

“The market customers have come out like rain or shine. And they actually do their grocery shopping at this market,” Menchini said. “There’s a lot of loyalty at this market. Some markets, people will come out for a coffee and a bouquet of flowers, but people here are coming out with trolley and a meal plan. And that’s different than most markets. It’s different than a lot of markets.”

For vendors and shoppers alike, the market is more than just a place to buy food.

“We like to be known as a destination place. It’s a great way to spend a morning with family,” Land said. “We just encourage our community to come out and enjoy Oregon’s rich food landscape.”

The Oregon City Farmers Market is open every Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 26.

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