Several people in the Philomath community couldn’t wait for the first farmers’ market of the season to open up on Sunday morning.
“We had so many customers before it was even 11 — it’s been really great,” Philomath Farmers’ Market Manager Janel Lajoie said. “It was funny — Priscilla (Virasak) over here at Veun’s Garden — she was saying that she had customers at like 10:35 and she was thinking that she was late and she was panicking.”
As it turned out, the market wouldn’t officially open for another 25 minutes.
On the subject of hours, organizers changed them this year moving up to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors seem to like the earlier start — it will become especially welcomed this summer if another heat wave hits the region. In addition to that reason, Raewyn Dietrich of Hiatt Farms, believes sales might be better with people shopping over the lunch hour. In fact, Hiatt Farms had such good sales that it had to make two trips back to the home base to bring in more products.
“I think the customers and vendors are liking the hours a lot better,” Lajoie said. “Staying open (last year) to 5 o’clock was so hot and it was so miserable sometimes.”
Lajoie had around 15 vendors signed up but a wet weather forecast scared off a handful. As it turned out, the rain pretty much held off until some drops fell during the fourth and final hour. There was some wind, though, and it was strong enough that a couple of other vendors that had set up decided to leave because their products were getting blown around.
“Six of the people that are here are new vendors this year and I think that’s exciting,” Lajoie said. “I’m still on the push for more produce vendors — always.”
Besides those hours, the market will also stick around longer with 20 weeks in all, up from last year’s 16. The market has 19 more to go with the final date being Oct. 16.
“I just wanted to be able to get more of those actual harvest-time vegetables — the pumpkins and those kinds of things that come a little later in the year,” she said.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Oregon Trail cards are accepted and the market has Double Up Food Bucks available — a program that doubles the value of SNAP benefits up to $20. Also accepted are Farm Direct Nutrition Program checks, a state-administered federal nutrition program serving families enrolled in WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and income-eligible seniors.
Lajoie said the SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks situation has been fantastic.
“I think that I’ve handed out $140 so far in Double Up Food Bucks, which is free federal money that’s going to flow into our community,” she said. “They call it a win-win-win because the farmer wins, the person who’s getting the food wins and the community wins.”