Philomath Farmers' Market
The Oregon Farmers Markets Association recognized Philomath Farmers’ Market as 2021 Outstanding Small Market. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Farmers’ Market received a surprise honor last month when the Oregon Farmers Markets Association recognized the local organization with its award for 2021 Outstanding Small Market.

The recognition comes just one year after the Philomath market’s first season of full operation. In 2020, the market was running as a pilot program.

“I feel like there was a tremendous amount of organization and thought and collaboration with community partners before starting this market,” said Janel Lajoie, who was hired as Philomath Farmers’ Market manager prior to the 2021 season. “I think the energy and the feel of our market is different than a lot of other markets because the city and the community and the vendors … are all in support of the market. There aren’t a lot of roadblocks at this point to success other than recruiting vendors and publicity.”

Lajoie said the market hopes to bring in more small, local growers.

“That’s my big push — to find those small backyard farmers that might just be growing for their family and a little extra,” she said. “It doesn’t take a big fancy setup to be part of our market … it’s really easy to become a vendor with produce you may already be growing.”

Lajoie would even like to see local vendors grow beyond the scale of the Philomath event.

“My intention is that our vendors grow big enough that they are comfortable enough to go to a bigger market and once they grow to that, they can come back with a satellite,” she said. “For Philomath, it really is in my mind the idea of growing these small family farms, growing in our community.”

As a newer organization, the Philomath Farmers’ Market only recently became members of the Oregon Farmers Markets Association.

I think the Philomath Farmers’ Market is the perfect thread to weave into the fabric of our community — blending our past, our present and our future.” Janel Lajoie, Philomath Farmers’ Market manager

“Last year we weren’t members, but they really helped me get the SNAP EBT program going at the market,” Lajoie said. “They have really good resources for farmers’ markets and really good support.”

SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and those funds are made available on an EBT, or electronic benefit transfer, card.

This year’s Philomath Farmers’ Market is scheduled to run on Sundays from June 5 to Oct. 16 with hours of 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

“We all know we don’t have a (traditional) grocery store,” Lajoie said. “The market means that our little town can walk out of their homes on a Sunday morning or afternoon and interact with their neighbors and friends and folks they haven’t met yet.”

Through time, Lajoie hopes to see the local market evolve right along with the rest of the community.

“Our community’s growing as you know and revitalizing,” she said. “They have streetscape coming and new art and I think the Philomath Farmers’ Market is the perfect thread to weave into the fabric of our community — blending our past, our present and our future. As those come together, I think the market can be a really good, consistent place that folks can count on.”

Lajoie shared that her dream is for the market to eventually find a permanent home in a new town square — whatever that might end up looking like — and that it becomes the thing to do on Sundays with live music, what the vendors offer and community members coming together.

“I like to describe it as a big community hug, which is silly, but I feel like the energy in our market is different than so many others,” she said.

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.