Falling in Love

with the Lane County Farmers Market

By Meadow Scott. This article appeared in the Spring 2018 issues of Take Root Magazine

It was the big bag of rolled oats that really hooked me— grown less than 10 miles away, they would make a

truly local breakfast. On the table next to the oats were colorful dry beans, cornmeal, whole rye berries and at

least three different kinds of wheat flour. I was standing in the middle of one of the most complete and vibrant

farmers markets I had ever been to, and staring at an entire booth full of beautiful, local pantry staples.

Surely this was heaven.

My family and I were visiting Eugene with a serious mission. We were planning a move from our longtime

home in Alaska, and Eugene was our proposed landing place. My husband and kids came to scope out

schools and neighborhoods. I came to see the Farmers Market.

I love food, from every angle— growing it, cooking it, eating it, talking about it— and the farmers market is

where it all comes together. Shopping for fresh food in local markets and meeting the people who grew it is,

to me, the height of pleasure and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I knew that if I could fall in love with the

Lane County Farmers Market, I could fall in love with Eugene.

I found myself practically glowing as I walked the long loop of booths. Every kind of fruit and vegetable that

might come from the Oregon earth in late May rose to meet my gaze. The colors, even so early in the season,

were dazzling. But as a farmers market connoisseur, what really impressed me was the complete offering of

foodstuffs— alongside the cornucopia of seasonal produce, there was also meat, fish, cheese, bread, nuts,

fresh pasta, mushrooms, honey, and of course, that booth full of locally grown grains, beans and flour. In

short, almost everything that a person needs to stock her larder for a week of meals lay at hand.

The incredible variety of foods at the farmers market is complemented by the long season of availability.

While the surprisingly hot summers in the Willamette Valley allow farmers to grow everything from peaches to

sweet potatoes, the benign winters allow for year-round harvest of fresh salads, cooking greens and root

crops. The farmers market provides for this by running nearly all year, excepting a short break from mid-

December through January. All of these things add up to make comprehensive grocery shopping at the farmers

market a real life possibility; and if you go first thing in the morning, you will find a good crowd of people

doing just that.

There’s no doubt that the Eugene farmers market is the most practical and well-used market I’ve ever been

to. But there’s something else that’s harder to account for. There’s a glow, an aliveness, something in the air

that’s difficult to put into words. Angela Norman, the market director, believes there is no better place to be

on a Saturday morning during market season, rain or shine. “The community’s commitment to the local farmto-

table culture here is strong,” she says. “The market provides a place for folks to participate in that culture

on a weekly basis. Tapping in to this shared culture feels good and there’s an intangible beauty to witnessing

this type of synergy.”

What is it that hums this synergy at the market? What is it that sweeps you in and makes you feel like you are

a part of something larger, something good? What breathes such life into the simple act of buying groceries?

Perhaps its the long and colorful history— Eugene’s farmers market has been running for more than 100 years

and the town has been an icon of hippie culture for at least 50 of those years. Perhaps it’s the strident efforts

made to keep the market genuinely local and small farm focused, so that you can truly ‘meet your farmer’

every week. Perhaps its the way that the farmers market dovetails so perfectly with the adjacent Saturday

Market, a weekly arts and crafts fair with live music, which offers a decidedly festive ambience without diluting

the purity of the farmers market itself.

Or perhaps it’s the way that the market reflects the broader community so perfectly, embodying what Norman

calls the “Eugene trifecta” of food, art and sustainability. People here care about where their food comes

from, who grew it, and how it tastes; people want to make a statement, they want to change the world, and

they want to have fun doing it. College kids, families with strollers, old hippies and young hipsters, hardworking

farmers, and inspired food artisans— the farmers market weaves each individual strand into a resilient

and beautiful web. Every week this unique community of people comes together at the market to reassert

their shared values of sustainability and humanity, and to bask in the glow of interconnectedness.

My family and I made our big move almost a year ago now, and I spend every Saturday morning wandering

through the booths at the farmers market, filling my bags with a week’s goodness, and finding my place in the

community of Willamette Valley food culture. Every week I feel a renewed sense of gladness and affirmation

that my family and I made the right decision when we chose Eugene. The market has worked it’s magic, I’m in