By Heather Pugh, PFM volunteer and farmers market enthusiast
Watching people enjoy food at farmers markets is great. It might be one of my favorite activities – and I don’t mean this in a weird voyeuristic kind of way, I mean that I love witnessing the unique interactions that take place while people explore an entire city block full of incredible local food, flavors and farmers. It’s an experience you simply don’t get from a drive-thru or grocery store.
What makes farmers markets so special? We get to spend time with the very farmers who are growing the food that is making our home-cooked meals an experience. We get to ask questions. We get to sample. Sometimes we learn the story behind a farmer’s life and they get to know ours. And hello! At PFM’s neighborhood markets, we get to listen to live music while doing it.
This Thursday turned out to be an evening full of adventure as I decided to hit up both of PFM’s Thursday afternoon markets, biking from Northwest to Buckman.
Observing and partaking in are two major components of shopping at a farmers market. For instance, I had the pleasure of witnessing a shopper at the Northwest Market contort her face in the most hilarious way after trying Mickelberry Gardens’ honey apple vinegar tonic for the first time. I completely empathized with this experience, but once you get past the puckering, the health benefits of this stuff are so worth it. For the time being, the shopper squinted her eyes, smacked her lips, and contented herself with a supply of their honey sugar scrub instead.
Minutes later, another lady and I shook our heads in disbelief as we were infused with the giddiness of five-year-old children running free on a farm after biting into Baird Family Orchards’ juicy and oh-so-very-sweet Sun Crest Peaches. And finally, if you haven’t tried Portland Creamery’s Artisan Goat Cheese, particularly the Sweet Fire mix, make it a priority! My breakfast this morning consisted of rye bread topped with this divine product, and for the first time in my life eating toast was more like riding atop a Pegasus through big, fluffy clouds. I kid you not.
After my time at Northwest, I rode over to the Buckman Market where the Ray Mann Band was in full swing, providing a chill rhythmic backdrop for all the market lovers. A woman was reuniting with her friends who had just arrived from Japan, and this special moment was shared with laughter and playfulness as one of them joined in with the band, stunning Ray Mann himself with his drumming talent.
I was lured in by the aromas wafting over from the Columbia River Smoked Salmon tent where John Medina was dishing out samples of his fish that’s freshly harvested from the river and smoked with minimal ingredients. His approach to preparing salmon with just sea salt, cracked pepper, and alderwood smoke reminds me that sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Let the natural flavors speak for themselves.
Simplicity. Perhaps that’s the very essence of what makes the PFM markets so special. As much work that goes into making all of these markets possible, what lies at the core of their success is actually quite simple. It’s about honoring what’s fresh, local and sustainable. It’s about people embracing their craft. It’s about people appreciating both tradition and innovation. Most of all, it’s about people coming together making the most of this flavor-filled life.
Heather is a writing and editing consultant here in Portland whose work is dedicated to pointing the spotlight onto small businesses, big hearts, healthy living, local and national artists, and empowerment through a genuine and thorough examination of one’s relationship with the surrounding world. Peruse her random life at http://darkhorsewriter.wordpress.com/ or catch her on LinkedIn.