Jefferson County has a reputation as a rich agriculture community, but farms and ranches do not have many places to sell their products in the region. They often rely on wholesale orders and people traveling to their farm stores. To better showcase the county’s agricultural goods, the city of Madras created a new Farm-to-Table market that will open Memorial Day Weekend in the plaza outside City Hall.
The market will be open every Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. May 28 to Sept. 3.
Lysa Vattimo, city recorder and spokesperson who developed the idea for the market, said it will be a first for Madras. An existing Saturday market mostly features arts and crafts, while the new market will exclusively offer products from Jefferson County, such as meat, eggs and vegetables.
“This Farm-to-Table market is going to be really unique,” Vattimo said. “It will only be open to farms and ranches in Jefferson County. We really want to support our local growers.”
Vattimo, who will be the market liaison, said she is still gauging interest from local farms and determining how many vendors will be at the market each week. She expects the market to draw large crowds of locals and visitors who will be passing through Madras during the summer.
The City Hall plaza is visible from U.S. Highway 97, which becomes Fourth Street in the city.
“We think it’s just a perfect time, day of the week, and location for us to catch passers through and provide a central location for our citizens,” Vattimo said.
Cheri Bowen, who runs a 5-acre farm in Culver with her husband, Devon, said she plans to attend the market and sell similar goods that are in her family’s farm store, Green Drive Mercantile.
Bowen said the market will help connect her farm with people who want to support local businesses. Her farm produces beef, pork, eggs and several vegetables.
“It seems like a lot of people are choosing local more than ever, which is nice because they realize they can get a lot of products they would normally get from the stores right here,” Bowen said.
Bowen, who works as a potato seed harvest inspector for Oregon State University, said the market will also give her farm more visibility and hopefully draw in visitors to the area.
“If there are travelers, it could be something nice from them to stop and learn a little bit about our community and what we do out here,” Bowen said.
Neighboring farms and ranches have told Bowen they are interested in the market. She hopes most are able to join the market this season.
“The more people hear about it and learn about it, I think it will spark more interest,” Bowen said. “A lot of times the hardest part is finding time away from the farm or ranch.”
In addition to providing a space for the market, the city of Madras will offer assistance to farmers and ranchers to advertise their products.
Vattimo said she found many farmers and ranchers do not know how to market their products, so she will help them share photos on the market’s social media pages and reach a wider audience.
“We are going to cross pollinate with them and go out and take photos and help them learn how to market their products,” Vattimo said.
Another aspect to the market will be an internship program with the Future Farmers of America, through the 509J School District in Madras. The city will fund the internship and the FFA students will receive school credit. The students will assist vendors at the market and learn how to sell farm-to-table products, Vattimo said.
The long-term goal for the market is to transition into a permanent storefront in the downtown area that is run and managed by the farmers and ranchers.
“The store would not only provide a sustainable location for selling products, but an opportunity to train young people in entrepreneurism,” Vattimo said.
Vattimo also envisions partnering with local food pantries and using the market to address hunger in the region. Once the market opens this season, the possibilities are endless, she said.
“I feel like this is cracking open the seed of hope and now we are going to see what grows,” Vattimo said. “You just don’t know until you try.”