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Farmers market opens Saturday

The Portland Farmers Market will reopen this Saturday in the Park Blocks adjoining Smith Memorial Student Union for its sixth year at Portland State and its 12th season overall.

Both the hours of operation and the length of the season have been extended this year, said Diane Stefani-Ruff, market manager of the nonprofit organization. Hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., a half hour longer than last year’s hours.

The market will run every Saturday through Nov. 22, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Last year the market closed for the season at the end of October but had one special opening day before Thanksgiving.

“There’s usually still plenty of product by November 22,” Stefani-Ruff said. “Our customers were saying please don’t close, so we decided to stay open.”

The market operates rain or shine, with vendors erecting tents against possible wet weather. The tables and stalls present a colorful variety of personalities as well as a mixture of home-produced products.

A regular feature at the market is the hour-long chef’s demonstration at 10 a.m. The featured chef this Saturday is Ann Cuggino of Veritable Quandary. The remaining schedule of chefs in May includes Marco Shaw of Fife, May 10; Rob Pando of Red Star Tavern, May 17; and Ron Glanville of In Good Taste, May 24.

All products offered for sale at the market must be grown, raised, produced or gathered by the vendor in Oregon or Washington, with a few exceptions. Products eligible for sale can be vegetables, fruits, berries, herbs, nuts, flowers, plants, seafood, meat, eggs and dairy products. Also eligible are some farm-based food items made by the vendor such as cheese, sausage and baked goods.

This being early in what has been a wet spring, some customary vegetables and fruits have not yet made an appearance. Produce will emphasize leafy greens such as kale, spinach and salad greens. There will also be plenty of flower stalls.

“There will be lots of plant starts and perennials,” Stefani-Ruff said.

She anticipates from 50 to 80 vendors this Saturday, depending how well the weather encourages the harvest this week. As the season progresses, the number of stalls will reach up to 130, she predicted.

There is music every week along with ready-to-eat food such as pizza, burritos and sausage sandwiches.

The market schedules special events as well. The first will come May 10 with the annual Garden Party. There will be a master-gardener feature and free giveaways. Bedding plants and vegetable starts will occupy the spotlight. A later season favorite every year is bread day.

Stefani-Ruff has been market manager for six years and has seen the weekly event blossom.

“I’ve seen it grow from 40 stalls to more than 100,” she said. “Our growth has really been phenomenal.”

There are two other editions of the Portland market, both smaller than the Portland State version. The Wednesday market runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Southwest Park Avenue and Salmon Street, in the Park Blocks behind the Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium. Its season will begin May 14 and run through Oct. 29. A Thursday market runs June 5 through Aug. 28, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., in Jamison Square in the Pearl district, Northwest 10th Avenue and Everett Street.

The Portland Farmers Market was started by two Reed College students, Craig Mosbaek and Ted Snider. The first market occupied space at Albers Mill, on the east bank of the Willamette River. It operated Saturdays for five years until they added a Wednesday edition.

The market has allied itself with the gleaning movement, designed to provide food for the hungry from food which otherwise would end up in the waste basket. This year, gleaning boxes will be located at each vendor’s stall. At the end of each market day, vendors will donate produce or bread that cannot be stored or sold elsewhere.

Customers are also encouraged to glean by making contributions to a gleaning box from their own purchases or by buying items at the market ticketed specifically for the Portland Rescue Mission.

Larry Reihl, a representative of the mission, said donations often are dry items such as rice, pasta and beans.

“Although these items are desperately needed, the diets of many low-income people are seriously lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables that provide essential vitamins and minerals,” he said.