Outdoor Corvallis Farmers’ Market returns with minor changes

Arely Hanson of Pupuseria Del Valle standing at the intersection of 1st and Monroe where the Corvallis Outdoor Farmer’s Market takes place. The Outdoor Farmer’s Market will be opening back up on April 8th.

Cara Nixon, News Contributor

Picture strolling through the sunshine, admiring lined-up booths featuring a variety of local products, the smell of fresh bread, hand-cut flowers and homemade tamales all around you.

This is what the return of the outdoor Corvallis Farmers’ Market on April 17 is likely to look and feel like. And though the pandemic prohibits the market from operating completely normally, event organizers and vendors are ready to get back downtown. 

COVID-19 guidelines began taking effect last year near the end of the Corvallis Indoor Winter Market’s season. Market organizers had to rush to find ways to still put on the outdoor farmers’ market for the community, and they were successful, though the market appeared much differently. 

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

“COVID-19 forced our farmers’ markets to transform themselves from multi-faceted community events to events for a single purpose: safely getting farm-direct, locally-grown agricultural products into the hands of local shoppers,” Rebecca Landis, market director said via email. 

This change meant restrictive rules for restaurants, the loss of live music and fewer vendors at the market—such alterations will continue this year.

Landis also said due to many brick-and-mortar restaurants that front on the farmers’ market’s traditional permit area have received street cafe permits inside the market perimeter, the market was granted additional space on Jackson Avenue to make up for lost space and accommodate for newly vaccinated vendors and new vendors.

“Our approach is to largely retain procedures as they were at the end of the 2020 season,” Landis said. “…We won’t change anything before we are told we can. Even then, there may be reasons to be cautious before making allowed changes.”

As the season opens, restaurants at the market will still remain take-out only, single-serving drinks will not be sold and mask and social distancing guidelines will continue to be enforced. A couple of minor changes will be made this year. 

At the 2020 outdoor market, signs and advertisements encouraged people attending the market to only send one person per household to shop. The market this year now asks for one or two people per household.

“The point of all this is simply to make room for every household that wants locally-grown products to have safe access,” Landis said.

Additionally, Executive Director of the Downtown Corvallis Association Jennifer Moreland said for the first time ever, restaurants at the market will be allowed to have their outdoor dining in the parking spots. 

Though these changes are small, they may be early signs of the market returning to some form of normalcy. This is important for vendors, who often rely on the Corvallis Farmers’ Market for their businesses to survive and thrive. 

This is true for Rommy Streicher Silva, who owns Sabor. Sabor sells organic tamales made with local ingredients. 

“[The farmers’ market is] fundamental, really,” Silva said. 

Due to the pandemic, Sabor now sells its tamales frozen, with options ranging from chicken and pork to vegetarian and vegan. 

“Our business is 100% from Corvallis, [we have] fresh products, and the recipes are original recipes from our family,” Silva said. 

COVID-19 majorly affected Silva’s business because less people began going out to buy food as a result of it; however, she feels supported by farmers’ market organizers and customers, who have helped her business continue.

Decreases in sales have been common for small businesses during the pandemic, but others have actually seen an increase as a result of COVID-19.

April Hall Cutting, co-owner and head baker of Wild Yeast Bakery said, “Our business has grown during the pandemic, because apparently people still need to eat.” 

Wild Yeast focuses on selling sourdough bread with organic, local grain, and also sells whole-grain pastries. It started out as a community-supported business on a subscription system and has expanded to attend farmers’ markets as well as selling at the local co-ops. 

While Wild Yeast was at the market last year, Cutting was unable to attend the outdoor market in-person because she was helping to care for an infant. She said she’s excited to be back downtown this year, because she enjoys what she does so much and believes it’s important to support local businesses. 

“For most of us, [the farmers’ market is] our livelihood in terms of money, but a lot of small businesspeople do it because it’s their passion, and that’d be true for us,” Cutting said. “We just love doing what we’re doing.”

Arely Hanson, the owner and chef of Pupuseria Del Valle, said supporting small, local businesses is also important because they help to

employ the community. 

Pupuseria Del Valle caters in non-pandemic times and sells pupusas and tamales at the farmers’ market. Hanson said the farmers’ market is “very important,” especially during COVID-19 for her business. The market has helped to grow Pupuseria Del Valle, but Hanson hopes to expand even further to a

food truck eventually. 

Jennifer Macone, owner of The Mushroomery, also said the event is vital to the success of her business. 

The Mushroomery sells cultivated and wild certified organic mushrooms, and though Macone expected sales to decrease drastically during the pandemic, COVID-19 has had less impact than she thought. 

Macone said she’s excited to get back to the outdoor market because of its social aspect, even when that socialization comes with masks and social distancing. 

“At the farmers’ market, you can find some of the freshest food around. You can also buy specialty items that are not always available in grocery stores,” Macone said.

Macone said it’s important to support small businesses for a couple reasons. 

“I think it’s more environmentally friendly keeping things local, and supporting small businesses is great, I think it keeps people employed, usually at a better wage,” Macone said. 

Landis noted that without farmers’ markets, many small farmers and businesses would never get started. 

“The farmers’ markets are not the only source of locally-grown food and [agricultural] products in Corvallis, but we are critical enough to those producers that some of the other local food sources might not exist—or would not have nearly the same range of products—without us providing a strong base,” Landis said. 

Moreland explained that these are also events necessary in providing fresh, local food to the Corvallis, Ore. community. Additionally, the farmers’ market brings a certain feeling to the downtown area, Moreland pointed out. 

“It just makes you feel at home, it makes you feel like you belong somewhere,” Moreland said. 

Without farmers’ markets, according to Moreland, small businesses would struggle, and without these small businesses, downtown Corvallis would change completely. 

“Downtown Corvallis is the heart and soul of this community, and without the businesses operating in downtown, we would have vacant storefronts, and the community feel, that feeling of home and belonging, would go away without our small businesses operating,” Moreland said. 

Landis and Moreland encouraged citizens to get out to the market, while following COVID-19 guidelines like wearing a mask, socially distancing and only sending one or two people from a household. 

Though it still has its restrictions, Moreland said, “It’s one of the safest ways you can shop.”