The Philomath Farmers’ Market will operate from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays from May 28 to Oct. 15. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Farmers’ Market will begin its 21-week run this coming Sunday and those who have been routine patrons of the local shopping opportunity should notice the presence of more vendors — and that includes more local farmers.

Walk into the market area from the west and you’ll immediately see wild mushrooms and fettuccine to the left with massage chairs, food products, jewelry and barbecue sauce to the right. Continue walking through and there will be 16 or more others selling everything from hot pizza to fresh fruits and vegetables to artisan jams and pickles. And that’s just a sampling.

It all adds up to a significant level of growth since the market’s launch during the pandemic summer of 2020.

“On the average from now until the middle of October, I have scheduled probably an average of about 28 vendors a week,” Philomath Farmers’ Market Manager Janel Lajoie said. “So since starting in 2020 with what was sometimes five or six vendors, that’s pretty good growth in just a few short years.”

The market’s hours will be 11 a.m.-3 p.m. each Sunday to Oct. 15 in the Philomath Community Library and Philomath Police Department parking lots on Main Street.

On opening day this coming Sunday, the market has nine farming operations signed up to participate. Another four vendors have food products.

“We have a lot more farmers this year, so a lot more food, which is really good,” Lajoie said. “That’s nice, too, because that allows us to accept more of the artisans and crafters.”

The market maintains a particular ratio of farmers to craft vendors, plus there are also community outreach spaces.

This first weekend’s lineup of non-food booths includes five selling arts and crafts and three information booths plus musician Kurt Smith and a chair massage vendor.

Other vendors in various categories will come and go. On June 18, for example, an Oregon City-based distilling company will be at the market with handcrafted cocktails. And later on this summer, the Philomath High robotics team will be on site.

Week-by-week vendor lineups and interactive maps are available online.

Lajoie said there are five vendors that have been with the local farmers’ market since the first year and she’s recognizing them through a social media campaign on the organization’s Facebook page.

“We are going to have live music,” Lajoie said. “I’ve got that booked for maybe the first half of the market so far.”

The market accepts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the state’s food benefits program for eligible, low-income individuals and families. Also accepted again will be Double Up Food Bucks, which match SNAP purchases up to $20 for fresh produce and food products.

Philomath Farmers’ Market, which is a program under the nonprofit organizational umbrella of Bountiful Backyard, received a few grants to help cover some costs, including just recently from the Corvallis Odd Fellows and individuals associated with the Power of 100 People Who Care organization, Lajoie said.

Grants have paid for things like a misting station and a freezer to store food items.

A pilot project back in 2020, the market has now moved into the sustainability phase with its year-to-year growth.

“Part of the reason why I think farmers’ markets fail sometimes is because they either have a lack of vision or lack of management,” Lajoie said, “and if you don’t attract enough vendors, you don’t attract enough shoppers but if you don’t attract enough shoppers, it’s hard to attract enough vendors.”

The Philomath market experienced challenges with vendor and shopper numbers early on.

“I think we made it over that hump,” Lajoie said. “I mean, we started under the pandemic so we kind of had the chips stacked against us a little bit.”

Philomath also is a small town and Corvallis has a farmers’ market on Saturdays. Lajoie said she doesn’t really see the neighboring market as competition.

“I think we’re a really different market than Corvallis in a lot of ways,” she said, “and I think a lot of people appreciate that — a lot of people hit both markets and that’s wonderful. But our town is growing, so there’s definitely a need for fresh produce, fruits and vegetables and arts and crafts in this town.”

Philomath has not had a grocery store since January 2014 and Lajoie believes the market fills the need for fresh produce — not only for fruits and vegetables but as a place to socialize.

“It’s turning into more than just a market because it really is a place where people gather and sit and talk,” she said. “We’ve had random members of the community, City Council members, the mayor and they’ll sit at the tables under the tent and just sit for an hour or two and chat with people. I think that makes a difference.”

Another factor that plays into Philomath’s favor comes down to fees. The organization charges only an application fee to cover administrative costs and a stall fee. In comparison, other markets may also charge a membership fee and some take a percentage of the vendors’ gross sales. Philomath also has a discount for vendors that commit for multiple weeks.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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