The Lane County Farmers Market–
- Traces its history back to 1915
- Features over 85 growers and producers
- Offers produce that is often less than 24 hours of being harvested
The market has a long history of providing jobs and locally produced food for the community.
During a springtime road trip through Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I was offered a delicious opportunity to experience local and farm fresh food while visiting Eugene. Over the years of traveling in Oregon I had always found myself returning to the Eugene area, yet once again I was finding my time limited. I decided to make the best of those few hours and visit the local farmers market.
It was a Saturday morning and I walked about 15 minutes from my motel to the corners of 8th and Oak Streets. The evening before there had been a gentle rain giving the sidewalk and surrounding buildings a pristine sheen. The air was cool and moist but there was gentle warmth that hinted summer was near.
Ahead was a bustle of activity; there was a small city of tents, cars were being unloaded, people were milling about, and I could hear music. A woman passed me; she was carrying a large cotton bag that had been stuffed with greens, the vegetables were so abundant they appeared to be surging over the bag’s edge.
I had arrived at the downtown Farmer’s Market, officially known as the Lane County Farmers Market. As I walked up to the first grouping of booths I could not deny the abundance of colors: a color pallet of orange from the carrots, a gradient of white to green from the asparagus, and the rosy red blush of turnips. Nearby were grouping of dark leaves that sprawled across several displays, each bunch was vibrant and sturdy – it was a small forest of salad.
A man passed by, he carried a flat filled with produce and presented it to a woman behind their display. The farmers were surprisingly healthy looking with pink-cheeks, and well defined statures. Mostly, though I noticed their smiles; it was obvious they loved their work.
The time was now mid-morning and the market was just starting to kick into a higher gear. Everyone was lively and embraced the good ‘vibes’ of the morning air.
A dark-haired girl gently swayed her head to the melody she crafted with her violin. The open case at her feet welcomed donations from her milling audience.
There was a table covered with a red checkerboard cloth, upon it was a small display of eggs, each egg had a slight, yet distinct variation from the next; some were tan, others were red, some were speckled. As I observed them a woman wearing a sun hat came up, plunked down her money and spoke to the owner by name, she wanted 2 cartons. The scene reminded me of a cowboy swaggering up to the bar of an old saloon. The owner reached into one of the coolers, that was behind the table, and gave the woman 2 dozen fresh eggs.
A wood-fired pizza oven gently puffed a thin trail of smoke into the sky; it was still being warmed in preparation for lunch.
A waft of aromatic goodness and a sizzle from an iron skillet was seductively compelling. I peered over splashguard of a booth’s display; a man had just added several types of veggies and garlic to a masterful looking egg creation. It appeared as though this dish could rival a similar meal from a high-end restaurant.
Finally, my eyes and tummy got the better of me. I had to sample some of this amazing food, but I was in a quandary, of the amazing choices what should I eat? Finally, I decided, and then I ate well.
Afterwards, I stepped through a well-worn door and into the red-bricked and cozy Park St. Café; one of the neighboring locally owned businesses.
I enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee, read the paper, and watched the market unfold until it was time for me to return to my motel and grab my bags. For several minutes I had noticed a family outside the window, a curious child was at their side, the parent’s were carrying bags full of bread and vegetables. They appeared to be waiting for someone. I tipped the cup and savored the last few rich drops, both of coffee and of my time at the market. The family started to smile and they welcomed some friends who had just arrived, giving warm hugs to each other. As I sat the cup down, it was decided. This was a place where I wanted to spend my time.
The market has a long history of providing jobs, and locally produced food for the community; but look deeper, it’s the embodiment of a connection to the land, to friends, and with neighbors.
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