UCC Mainstream Online

Local food offers healthier choice

Hannah Hawkins / Mainstream
For customers who prefer purchasing with credit cards, the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market now uses a token process. Shoppers decide how much to charge to their credit cards and are given tokens which they can then use for purchases at any vendor’s booth.

Local food, such as that sold at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market is growing in appeal to millennials.

According to a recent U.S. News and World report, 18-to-34 year olds take their food shopping especially seriously: “millennials are hard-wired to do their homework before making any decision or purchase.”

Millennials also expect “a high connectivity with the foods they are eating,” according to author Kelsey Lindsay.

The Umpqua Valley Farmers Market promotes this connectivity. Local farmers produce and sell their goods to strengthen the community and supply it with fresh, nutritious products.

The trend towards local food sourcing shows up in statistics: farmers markets in the U.S. have increased from a little over 1,000 in 1994 to over 8,000 in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This trend has created a growing collective movement within the local farmers markets to work together to attract customers. “The Umpqua Valley Farmers Market started out as a completely volunteer organization in 1994, and has now grown into a business,” Heather Barklow, the UV Farmers Market manager, said.

The UV Farmers Market, now meeting on Saturday mornings at the First United Methodist Church on Harvard, sells vegetables, fruit, honey, tea and other food, gardening and craft products. Vendor goods adorn tabletops within the market. “They had a wide selection of produce and other homemade products that was better quality than what I’ve been able to find in the store. The people were friendly and helpful,” said Chastity Gallagher, a former UCC student who has frequented the local market.

While many local farmers markets are open only during harvest seasons, the UV Farmers Market is open year round. They meet in the Diamond Lake Dutch Bros. parking lot on 2082 Diamond Lake Blvd. during spring and summer and in the First United Methodist Church on 1771 W. Harvard during the winter. In the summer, the market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the winter, the hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The environment is always friendly and welcoming,” said Natasha Kress, a present UCC student, who frequents the UV Farmers Market; “the farmers there are always ready to impose knowledge about their crops and about farming in general. I love that because one day I would like to have my own garden, and having the knowledge is a huge benefit.”

Some may question why go local when Wal-Mart is open year round. The farmers market customer service and cheaper prices with fresher food draw the crowds. “I believe they [local farmers markets] bring our community closer with local service and expertise,” Kress said.

Each vendor who joins the UV Farmers Market pays $25 to $35 to become a member and $180 a month to cover the cost of a “storefront” or stall fee and promotional advertising. “For many vendors, this is their livelihood, and some even use it as a second job,” Barklow said.

Local stores return as much as three times more money back to the community than chain stores, according to a report done by Civic Economics. “I think Wal-Mart and the bigger stores have had a huge impact on local businesses, because the local stores are not as popular,” Dahlia Dumont, a current UCC student, said. The farmer markets are working to return the consumer focus to local as they “create, promote, and help keep jobs in the area as well as giving the community support and resources,” Barklow said.

Students interested in becoming a market member can get information from the UV Farmers Market website by clicking on the “Become a Vendor” tab: www.uvfarmersmarket.org or call: 541-530-6200.

An Umpqua Valley Farmers Market Facebook page is also available which provides updates on new vendors and specials.