Growers gear up for farmers market season
For Bill Cole, the arrival of farmers market season means business is about to pick up.“I’ve got about a five- to seven-month window,” said Cole, owner of Vancouver-based Nature’s Wild Harvest. “That’s where I make most of my income.”Cole’s company sells wild mushrooms and other foraged foods at the Vancouver Farmers Market, plus a handful of other Portland-area markets. He’s not the only vendor who hits multiple markets throughout the year. But business models vary, and local growers weigh a variety of factors in deciding where to set up, or whether to do so at all.Some local farms focus more on direct sales to customers through community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs. Some are able to land their yields on grocery store shelves. Most find some combination of ways to sell their bounty.How local farms approach the market season can differ widely from one grower to the next, said Vancouver Farmers Market director Jordan Boldt.“It really depends on the business model that works best for them,” Boldt said.Cole has sold at the Vancouver market for 16 years. But Nature’s Wild Harvest tends to see better sales at the Portland markets where produce options are more plentiful and people come looking for them, he said. Many vendors don’t work the same market all year; some come and go or emphasize a particular time of year depending on what’s in season.The Vancouver Farmers Market kicked off its 2014 season in March. Others in the county will start later this spring and summer.Coyote Ridge Ranch plans to sell this year at the Salmon Creek Farmers Market, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays. Valerie Alexander, owner of the La Center-based farm, said that decision has a lot to do with the market’s clientele, and its manager, Ann Foster.