“Go to the farmers market and buy food there. You’ll get something that’s delicious. It’s discouraging that this seems like such an elitist thing. It’s not. It’s just that we have to pay the real cost of food. People have to understand that cheap food has been subsidized. We have to realize that it’s important to pay farmers up front, because they are taking care of the land.” —Alice Waters
Having fresh food at your fingertips in the very town you call home is to feel truly wealthy. Why? To eat well, to have an abundance of choices and to step outside, savoring Mother Nature as you peruse the selection, the entire experience is an elevation in living well.
Today I will be spotlighting three of my favorite local produce destinations in Bend, but regardless of where you call home and where your farmers market is located, I’ll be sharing 10 ways to best navigate and utilize what the farmers market has to offer.
While Bend’s growing season is quite short (June – September to be conservative) compared to other places I’ve lived, the farmers that bring their harvest to sell come from all over the state. Vendors from the Willamette Valley join the many farmers right here in central Oregon giving shoppers a wonderful bounty to choose from as you will see below.
Before I dive into the three markets I frequent for my fresh food shopping, let’s talk about the benefits of visiting the farmers market as well as a few tips to best navigate all the goodness in your own backyard:
1.Meet the farmers
“The way you support farmers is by shopping and buying raw ingredients.” —Michael Pollan
Most individuals who are selling the food at the market are the ones who have cared for the food, and they will be able to answer your questions. As well, you are supporting local farmers, members of the community you call home. Much like shopping locally at boutiques, etc., you support local families so they can continue to thrive in the town they as well call home.
2. Get ideas about how to cook the produce you purchase
Recently, as you will see below, I picked up some fava beans. These gorgeous, ginormous green pods grabbed my attention, but I honestly did not know how to cook them. However, I must confess, I had just seen Paris Can Wait, in which Diane Lane’s character enjoys bruschetta topped with fava beans. Consequently, I was quite curious to figure out how to make such an appetizer. So I asked the farmer. He gave me some delicious ideas, as well as instructions on how to properly cook the fava beans (blanche in the pod for a couple of minutes, pop out the fava beans after submerging in cold water, peel off the hard outer shell and voila!). He also suggested pairing the fava beans with capers and a little bit of olive oil, smashing them all together and smearing the mixture on top of the bruschetta. I took his word, and he was absolutely right. Delicious!
3. Eat fresh, organic food
Perhaps you call yourself a locavore. Perhaps you just appreciate delicious food. Either way, both predilections will be satiated when you stop by your local farmers market. Your body will thank you and your tastebuds will thank you.
4. Expand your eating repertoire
“I make an enormous amount of salads, but my salads are like meals. They’re amazing. I like going down to the farmers’ market and looking to see whatever you can find, because you can put anything in a salad.” —Andie MacDowell
Farmers markets sell what is in season. An abundant amount of artichokes are available because spring is wrapping up. Soon the tomatoes will be available, but not yet (at least not here in Bend). What I appreciate about visiting the markets is that I am gently forced to try new vegetables and fruits. For example, the garlic spears below were something I have never cooked with, but again, I asked the farmer what he would do with them, and he gave me some simple ideas. He also informed me that they are only available for a few weeks due to their short growing season, which gives all the more reason to give them a try.
5. Improve your prowess in the kitchen
Similar to #4, with the encouragement of the ideas from the farmers, I have had new experiences in the kitchen, expanding the types of recipes I make and broadening my skills and knowledge in the kitchen with new ingredients.
6. Discipline is strengthened
While most vendors accept debit/credit cards, I challenge myself to only and always take cash. I usually walk the full length of the market to compare prices before walking back and making my selections. And if I happen to have a few extra dollars left over as I finish my second walk through, I pick up something that looks delicious but I didn’t have on my list as a treat. Such a lovely reward for adhering to my objective of sticking to my cash budget!
7. Get to know your community
“Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization.” —Daniel Webster
Similar to #1, when you visit your local farmers market, while there will be tourists visiting, there will also be many of your fellow locals. Seeing each other in a convivial setting, enjoying and appreciating the food and the weather is a wonderful chance to bond over something we all can applaud – good and healthy food!
8. Pick up fresh, seasonal flowers often difficult to find in flower shops
I can remember when I lived in Pendleton, I would stalk the farmers market in May and June waiting for the peonies to arrive as I knew they would only be available for a few short weeks, and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity that came only once a year. Thankfully here in Bend, while the growing season is short for peonies, they are usually available to purchase for about a month. But the truth is, it’s an annual arrival that is brief and evanescent which makes it all the more something to celebrate when you welcome them into your home,
As well, just as you become introduced to new food, you also discover new varietals of flowers which was the case for me this year. As you will see below, a brilliant violet/purple flower caught my eye two weeks in a row. And while I didn’t know what it was, I knew I loved it. Well, thanks to TSLL readers, I snapped a pic and asked if anyone knew what it was called (I guess I could have asked the vendor as well, but they were swamped with other flower lovers), and the name is just as beautiful as the flower itself: des campanules en français or campanulas (bellflowers).
9. The fresh air
Leaving the air conditioned super markets, leaving the fluorescent lighting and breathing in the fresh air is a memorable experience. Wear your linen market dress, don your sunnies or maybe a wide-brimmed summer hat and just take everything in: the food, the people, the music, the moment.
10. The opportunity to bring out that beautiful French basket you have had tucked away for far too long
I am only partially kidding. I cannot tell you how excited I get to take my round woven basket with a leather handle off the top shelf in my hall closet. Its mere presence is a sign that a shift of seasons has occurred, and it is these mini celebrations and rituals that are important to savor. The everyday moments, the simple, but meaningful events and activities we enjoy that don’t happen each and every day. Why not visit your local farmers market and have a beautiful experience?
Have a look below at the three local produce markets in Bend.
- Brooks Alley in Downtown Bend, on the edge of Drake Park and Wall St.
- Wednesday afternoon/evening, 3-7 pm
- Opens first Wednesday in June and runs through mid October
- Mountain View High School
- Friday afternoon/evening, 2 – 6 pm
- Opens the last Fridays in June and runs until mid August as school begins soon.(This year: June 30th – August 18th)
~The best baguette I have had in Bend: a crusty, crunchy crust and soft and chewy bread inside. Pick it up at Jackson’s Corner‘s booth at the market~
- Saturday morning/afternoon, 10 am – 2 pm
- Opens the third Saturday in June and runs through late September depending up on the weather/harvest
~peonies (left); campanules en français or campanules (bellflowers) (right)~
Paradise Produce Farm Stand (Local Produce Stand)
- 1234 NW Galeveston St.
- 7 days a week (sell their produce at the local farmers’ markets as well)
- Opens late May and runs through early October
~garlic spears on the right~
~last week’s budget called for farm fresh eggs, a rosemary plant for the herb garden, broccoli, baby artichokes, fava beans, sweat peas (the smell is intoxicating!), lemon pepper pasta and a fresh baguette~