By Suzanne Briggs
Hollywood Farmers Market board member
The first week of August is National Farmers Market Week. On Saturday, August 8 at 11 a.m., Hollywood Farmers Market will hold a short ceremony to highlight the achievements that have contributed to a local food movement here in Oregon and across the country.
Hollywood is one of 8,000 farmers markets across the country that help to preserve rural livelihood and farmland, support local economies and increase access to fresh nutritious food for all citizens. There were only 35 farmers markets in Oregon when Hollywood Farmers Market rang its first opening bell in 1997. Now there are more than 120.
Over time, the number of farmers in Oregon has decreased, due to farmland being sold for development and being consolidated into larger parcels. To try to reverse this trend, Oregon State University held its first annual Small Farms Conference at Lane County Community College in 2000. About 125 farmers, farmers market managers and OSU extension staff attended that year to explore how to successfully build a farm direct sector of agriculture. Those efforts led to the establishment of the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems. Now in its 15th year, the Small Farms Conference attracts more than 900 attendees, mainly young farmers, and celebrates their expanding network of providing local food. The challenge now is to find land for all those new farmers.
Hollywood takes pride in the fact that more than 85 percent of its vendors return each year. Seven farmers were founding vendors and have participated in the market since 1997, when the market was located in the former Washington Mutual Bank parking lot (now the location of Whole Foods). Over the years, market vendors have established a loyal customer base in the neighborhood, and the market is teeming with shoppers every Saturday.
According to the national Farmers Market Coalition, 25 percent of farmers market vendors receive their sole source of income from their markets. Some farmers also generate additional revenues from their CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), U-Picks and farm stands as well as selling directly to schools and health care institutions. USDA, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and foundations such as New Seasons Market and Providence Health Care are providing an increasing amount of funding to support the growing number of farm direct venues.
In an effort to make nutritious local food available for low-income shoppers, the market began accepting SNAP (the program formerly known as food stamps) cards in 2004. Since then, more SNAP recipients have begun to shop at the market, and last year’s SNAP sales topped $22,000. (This trend is mirrored nationally, where SNAP sales at farmers markets have increased by 600 percent in the past decade). To further support this goal, the market introduced its Fresh Funds SNAP matching program in 2010. That program provides SNAP shoppers an additional $5 a week to purchase fresh products. Thanks to New Seasons Market and the efforts of the market’s board, that program generated another $10,000 for market farmers, and helped hundreds of low-income families purchase fresh, local produce. Similar successful SNAP matching programs in other states have now led to federal funding of these programs, through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. Through a FINI grant secured by the Portland-based Farmers Market Fund, Hollywood (along with other Oregon farmers markets) will receive additional funds to double their SNAP match program in 2016, a $10 weekly match for each SNAP customer.
Come celebrate all of these milestones and more as part of National Farmers Market Week on Saturday, August 8 at 11 a.m. Raise your morning coffee at Hollywood Farmers Market and help us thank the farmers, staff and volunteers for their contribution to our market’s success.
The Hollywood Farmers Market is located on Northeast Hancock Street between 44th Avenue and 45th avenues, one block south of Sandy Boulevard. It is open every Saturday from April through Thanksgiving and the first and third Saturdays of the month from December through March. Market hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. from April to September and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. from October to April. Dogs are welcome in the Market after 10 a.m. For more information, visit hollywoodfarmersmarket.org.