Brisbin: Places of magic and enchantment

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Whenever I travel, the first place I research at my destination is the local farmers market.

I check to see if the market days overlap with my stay. If so, I scope out the best way to get there.

If it’s close to anything else I want to see or visit, I do a deep dive into social media channels looking for vendor highlights and pictures of lovely bundled produce. 

Farmers markets are my favorite places to find a unique gift, snatch an afternoon snack and immerse myself in local culture. I love chatting with vendors to learn what’s in season, hear stories about what was harvested just that morning and establish a connection with the local market community.

My love for farmers markets is not new.

Guest Writer

Tayler Brisbin moved to Mac to attend Linfield and couldn’t bring herself to leave. Serving as communications coordinator for the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership has instilled a passion for storytelling and celebrating local businesses. And her assumption last year of the McMinnville Farmers Market reins has stoked another longtime love affair. She’s a wordsmith, yoga teacher and entrepreneur. She enjoys gardening, coffee and snail mail as well. You might spot her out and about with her bulldog Toby.

When I was a student at Linfield University, roughly 15 years ago, one of my favorite Thursday afternoon activities was browsing the booths at the market in downtown McMinnville. Even if I didn’t make a purchase, just being there, people-watching as I sampled a slice of apple or a goat cheese truffle, put me in my happy place.

One afternoon, while meandering through the market, I happened to look up. In one of the windows overlooking the street, I caught a glimpse of a couple in a passionate embrace.

In that moment, something clicked in my 20-year-old brain. The epitome of what I wanted in my unfolding adult life was living in an apartment overlooking a farmers market.

Talk about idyllic. If my life were a romantic comedy — though lord knows, it is not — this would have been my “meet cute” with McMinnville.

It was at this moment that I became smitten with the idea of building a life here. It’s the reason I decided to stay in this community after graduation.

In 2008, I actually moved into one of those apartments overlooking the market’s Cowls Street site. I loved opening the windows in the morning and listening to the buzz and snippets of conversations during set up.

I loved returning home after work and being able to pick up fresh bread, cheese and veggies before climbing the stairs to my flat. I loved sitting by the window with a glass of wine as the vendors packed up in the evening.

In many ways, it felt like my own private farmers market. It was, in a word, enchanting.

At this point in my life, I have an even deeper understanding and appreciation for the magic of farmers markets. That’s because I was fortunate enough last year to step into the role of market manager for the 2019 season.

Talk about a full circle moment!

My time working with the market and the vendors has given me an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at marketing, communication, adaptability, compromise and best business practices. I’ve also gained a better understanding of the impact of  farmers markets on the economic vitality of the community — something that feels particularly relevant in the midst of a pandemic.

Farmers markets are a really low-barrier option for farmers and entrepreneurs just starting out. The weekly booth fees are reasonable, and selling at a specific space with consistent foot traffic is a huge asset for those without farmstands or brick and mortar shops.

It makes economic sense for vendors because they are able to sell directly to consumers, educate the public about their products and practices, build relationships with customers and cultivate connections with other vendors. Being at the market also exposes them to new customers through social media and collaborative marketing efforts.

I’ve loved seeing the collaborations that have developed over the years among farmers, artists, crafters and bakers.

For every dollar spent at a local business, 68 cents remains in the local economy. So purchases made at the markets have a direct impact.

It’s not uncommon to see vendors out and about in the Third Street core or adjacent Granary District grabbing a cold beverage or bite to eat before the market starts or after it ends for the day.

And it’s not just vendors. The entire downtown seems to come alive Thursday afternoons.

When people make a trip to the market, they are likely to spend time lingering downtown as well. They may pick up an iced coffee on the way back to the office, catch a late lunch or pop into a shop.

Has this activity shifted during the pandemic?

No doubt. But with the market and many downtown shops offering the convenience of pre-orders and curbside pickup, the community emphasis remains on supporting local business, even if that support looks and feels slightly different.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to also gush about Double Up Food Bucks, a program that helps make healthy, locally grown food accessible to underserved Oregonians.

This nutrition incentive program matches federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, better enabling SNAP participants to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. Families qualify for up to $10 in matching funds each week, allowing them to take home $20 worth of fresh, local produce for just a $10 SNAP outlay.

Given the soaring unemployment rate, more Oregon families are relying on SNAP this year.

Double Up helps them make their grocery budget go farther. After all, no one should have to make the choice between food and health.

Double Up Food Bucks is a triple win, not only for underserved families, but also for family farmers, farmers markets and Oregon’s economy.

Because of this program, low-income families eat better, family farmers gain new customers and sell more produce, and more food revenue stays in the local economy. The local market is only of more than 50 participating in Oregon.

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers markets have been deemed essential businesses. In response, market managers have gone to great lengths to ensure they remain safe.

Many markets have adjusted their configuration to increase the opportunity for safe physical distancing. Many have adopted one-way traffic, or implemented pre-order and drive-through options.

The Oregon Farmers Market Association has established a list of guidelines and best practices for markets and vendors. That ensures consistent messaging, policies and standards.

There are specifications for display by the vendor and handling by the public to promote safety. Odds are, your produce has only been touched by one to two people from the moment harvested to the moment it went into your bag.  

In Yamhill County, we are lucky to have a variety of market options.

In McMinnville, the market in downtown got its start 20 years ago. It has become a vibrant element of the community during its May to October run.

Another market operates Saturday mornings at the Grange Hall on a year-round basis. And at the beginning of the pandemic, Mac Market organized Local Goodness to Go as a way for locals to pre-order meat, eggs, vegetables, flowers, coffee and other area goods for drive-through pickup.

The next time you visit a farmers market, consider how different local communities would look and feel without them. They support farmers, artisans, crafters, bakers and entrepreneurs — crucial elements of what makes our area such an inviting place to live, play, connect and grow.


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