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Farmers from throughout region get to know community at Molalla event

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: PEGGY SAVAGE  - Farmers get to meet community members at the 2015 Farmer Fair in Molalla.
More than 60 farms will participate in this year’s February Farmers Fair to be held at Molalla High School.

Presented by Food for Life (FFL) and the MHS Culture Club, the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, in the school’s commons.

Local farms and agricultural businesses will be represented at the fair, with a larger marketing outreach to surrounding areas than last year. More than 750 people are expected to attend.

Sarah Petty, one of the Food for Life co-leaders, said the purpose of the event is to introduce farmers to the local community and surrounding areas.

“The event is still growing for us,” Petty said. “The focus for FFL has been whole food education and supporting our local farmers, and that led us to this event. We really wanted to reach out to the farmers and make them tangible to our community.”

Petty said one of the goals of the fair is to educate the community about where fresh, healthy food is located. Buy local, support local is the fair’s mission.

“People learn where they can get it locally,” she said. “Essentially we are letting people know these farms are your grocery store. We are surrounded by this abundant food, and we are trying to connect farmers to the community so we have a source to get fresh food from and supporting our economy at the same time.”

The fair will feature farms raising vegetables, livestock, berries, fruit and a local seed company — any farm that’s food-related.

“It’s huge that we have so many resources right here, both in and near town,” Petty said. “Foodwaves will be there — it’s an educational program teaching people how to grow their own food, plant a sustainable garden. They have a vegetable farm. In fact, they helped the school’s Culture Club build their school garden. That’s how we got them involved.”

The main event of the fair focuses on introducing the local farmers who grow a variety of healthy foods and local agricultural business owners. The fair will not be a place to purchase foods, but to meet farmers and sign up for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

“People sign up with the farms and get a portion of what that farm is selling,” she explained. “Say pork shares — when the time comes around for people to get their share, the farmer delivers the pork to their home. You are helping to keep that small farmer going by buying through a CSA, and you benefit by getting fresh, healthy locally-grown foods.”

The event will also feature workshops, live music, free face painting for the kids and two food carts offering refreshments for sale by the Culture Club.

The OSU Extension Service will have a food preservation information booth staffed by certified Master Food Preserver volunteers who can answer questions related to canning and preserving. Take your pressure canner to the booth for a free safety check.

Farms at the fair will be from Molalla, Canby, Silverton, Woodburn and Oregon City. Some are the same farmers you’d find selling their products at a local farmers market.

“All our farmers are vetted,” Petty said. “For the fair, we do hand-select them specifically, based on taking care of the land and animals and farming in an organic way. They take the best possible care of the food they will be selling to the community.”

This is the third year for the fair, and Petty said she is seeing the positive effect it has on the local community.

“People are wanting to have more natural foods,” she said. “People are asking us about the event and asking to be a part of the fair as a vendor. That is exciting for us because it means we are getting the education out there. More farmers want in on this because it has been so successful.”

For more information, check the Food for Life Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/#!/foodforlifegroup