Portland has access to a wealth of great produce, from Sauvie Island fruit to Strawberry Hills Beef, 42nd Street CSA boxes to at least 6 weekly farmers markets in greater Portland. In my current state of disrepair, unemployment and generally friendly malaise, Farmers’ markets have been a welcome distraction.
Peoples’ Co-op Farmers Market
Crunchier than Thou, but friendlier too
3029 SE 21st
Every Wednesday, year-round
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The Peoples Co-op is on SE 21st and Tibbetts, between Division and Powell. Peoples’ is as crunchy co-op as you get: they throw solstice parties, there are naked children and hippie music, handwriting analysts (and not in the CSI sense), and reaching through a group of people to load up on bok choy might land you in the center of discussion about how spiritual playing the tabla can be.
At times, when you show up wearing dress shoes, or have a decent haircut, a general ‘hippier than thou’ vibe might flow from the watchful eyes of the Raw Vegan Samples stand and the kid in the grungy Carhartt overalls playing the washboard, singing about prisoners’ rights
Nevertheless, People’s is the one and only year round farmers’ market I have found. Sure, it’s depressing when you roll in at 3pm in November, sun already firmly hidden behind the West Hills, to find three sad tables of root vegetables, but it’s also a reminder what the trucking industry and the great state of California do for the diet of the average Oregonian.
The other true positive of Peoples’ farmers’ market is that it’s never so busy that you can’t chat with your farmer. Chabo and his wife, their darling babies and quick smiles; Sherry, who farms Maitakes, and refuses to get her duck and chicken eggs certified organic because, she says, the powers that be demand she wash her eggs with some nasty chemicals; The Turkish root vegetable farmer who’s constantly glancing toward his van, as if he is in perpetual need to hide behind it and have a cigarette break; the old couple who bring honey and rhubarb in the spring and Strawberries when they’re ready; the old hippy vending the largest selection of greens and things, who shifts in and out of reality with startling irregularity; lastly, the ever present canvasser of uncertain provenance.
I love Peoples’ Farmers’ Market because it’s consistent, quiet, solid, and as co-operative/non-commercial as I can imagine a farmers’ market to be. None of the farmers there are large enough to carry more than a few CSA accounts, let alone a supermarket contract.