20 January 2012

Farmers Under the Weather (Literally)

by Jaret Foster, Senior Market Manager, Portland Farmers Market

Moving into the third week of our Winter Market I have been watching the weather closely. The early part of this week brought snows to my northeast Portland yard and the following days rains nearly drowned my little garden. By Wednesday morning I was beginning to hear from vendors about their needing to potentially cancel with us for the weekend; some due to snows and power outages in and around Hood River and still others with historically high waters down the Valley.

Thursday I received a text from John at Gathering Together Farm that included a photo of the high water around their packing shed and a skeptical note on whether or not they will be able to get from the shed to the road (don’t worry–John assured me today that he’ll be there!) Tammi Packer also called to say that not only was their market truck buried under four feet of snow but their bakery had been without power for two days. Other vendors called to ask if the market was even going to be open (it is). Tomorrow’s weather looks like rain; this is the PNW in January!

PFM does have guidelines in place for weather related Market cancellations and will certainly close if it appears that vendors or shoppers would be endangered by our remaining open. This would be predicated as far in advance as possible by a “Severe Weather Warning” from the National Weather Service (NOAA). Dangerous high winds, ice, measurable snows, or extreme temperatures are all taken seriously. In my time with PFM we have only canceled a handful of market days. Once for snow and twice for extreme weather in June and July. In June of 2009 a tornado touched down in the Valley and brought insane winds and lightening to our Thursday evening markets. We closed those with white knuckles and gritted teeth.

Vendors are always encouraged to be safe if travel to market seems at all hazardous. Thankfully, so far this season we have only had rain to contend with in Portland. Unfortunately for our rural neighbors the precipitation has had adverse affects on their lands and businesses. The following photos and links are illustrative of this and can better describe the perils of farming in the PNW than I ever could.

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the lengths that our farmers go to in order to bring such beautiful food to the market each week.  Weather and pests routinely threaten their land and therefore their livelihood.  The circumstances of this week only make their hard work, sacrifices and tenacity that much more apparent.  Thank you, farmers, for braving the elements in the name of good food and sympathies to those with flooding or snow damage, including GTF & Packer Orchards who both provided photos for this piece.


PFM’s Winter Market will be open this weekend and those to follow; rain or shine!

Thank you to Camille Storch, Sara Lopath and Harry Lehman for the photos of Gathering Together Farm and to Tammi Packer for sharing her photos of Packer Orchards.

For additional photos of GTF under water, click here.