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New manager nurtures market for everyone


Tualatin Farmers Market, which opens June 13, adds a children's program

It’s not that Endre Richards never shops at the grocery store, she just finds it upsetting when she can’t find a loaf of bread without preservatives in it. Richards wants to know why a loaf of bread can’t simply be a loaf of bread. She wants to know where her food came from and who made it.

“I like the people who grow food in the ground. They pull the food out of the dirt, and they bring it to you to eat. I like that,” Richards said. “I like eggs that come from chickens that are not in totally inhumane conditions. Peaches that come from trees that haven’t been processed to look like a perfect peach. I like that. Real food that has real things to help your body be healthy and not full of chemicals.”

As the new manager of the Tualatin Farmers Market, Richards is doing her part to help the community learn and appreciate where food actually comes from. As last year’s market cashier, part of her mission as the new manager is to start educating from the ground up. Along with many of the other markets in Washington County, the Tualatin market will now feature a children’s program. For its pilot year, the Tualatin market will serve the first 100 children to arrive through the Power of Produce Club (POP), which began at the Oregon City Farmers Market.

On June 13, opening day of the 2014 Tualatin market, the 100 children will receive a shopping bag and a passport to get stamped every time they come to the market. For each stamp, they will earn two $1 tokens for use at any of the produce stands.

“We’re trying to mentor kids to be more informed and educated about what they’re eating, and then also to have a connection with the people growing their food,” Richards said. “What we’re hoping to do is really show children that a carrot grown from the ground tastes good. They’ve chosen that for themselves, hopefully eat that for themselves, and then continue to make those kinds of choices.”

The goal for the program is to mentor children about good health and to get them excited about eating healthy foods. Through this year’s pilot program, which will run through the first four weeks of the market, Richards and the market’s dedicated team of volunteers hope to learn what’s necessary to make POP sustainable for years to come.

“We wanted to do a completely intact program on a smaller scale so that we can say, ‘Look at the results of this and how great it was responded to in our community,’” she said. “And then next year, we can hopefully roll it out to the full-length market.”

Taking the program full-scale might mean adding numbers of participants or adding the number of weeks it spans. Ultimately, it will depend on what does and doesn’t work this year. Since so much relies on funding and sponsorship, those factors will play in, as well. Regardless of what Tualatin’s POP becomes, however, Richards is anticipating a huge success for this year’s program.

“I’m excited to see the response from the local kids and their parents, but also that that money then turns around and goes back into our produce vendors,” she said. “Some of them are very small farms, and they’re just getting started, so that’s actually good for them, as well.”

The Tualatin Farmers Market supports vendors within 100 miles of the city, with the occasional seafood exception. This year features some new stands, but maintains many who have been present before. Richards said the goal is always for the vendors to return, so they do their best to take care of them and help make them successful.

By starting POP, Richards hopes the excitement about fresh food will begin early and encourage more and more families to attend the market together, rather than leaving the kids at home for the evening.

“I think we have a lot of resources here, and I think that we’re focusing on building a sense of community,” she said. “I think the whole city is striving to feel a city identity, and I think this is part of that city identity — our great little market.”