Fresh and local

Camas and Washougal residents enjoy the sights, sounds and sustainability that farmers' markets provide

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Olga Mikhalets, owner of Svitoch European Bakery, helps young customers Wednesday at the Camas Farmer's Market select a pastry. The sweet offerings are very popular at the market, which runs through this Wednesday.

For nine years in Washougal and three in Camas, local residents have been able to enjoy a variety of farm fresh produce, treats, music and handcrafted items at the local farmers’ markets. With the markets wrapping up yet another season, the Post-Record is going to feature some highlights from each.

Washougal’s last day was Saturday, Sept. 25, while the final day for the Camas Farmer’s Market is Wednesday.

Camas Farmer’s Market

Visit downtown Camas on a Wednesday between May and September, and a variety of sights and sounds hit the senses:

There is fresh baked bread, cookies, vegetables, fruits, jellies, and even gyros for sale. Music wafts through the air, and artists display their wares.

The farmer’s market is held every Wednesday afternoon from 3 to 7:30 p.m.

“We call the Camas Farmer’s Market an agriculturally based market,” said Alicia McAvay, market coordinator. “To us, that means a market of farmers selling locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally raised lamb and eggs, and others selling locally prepared foods like bakery items, nuts and hot foods. Our market vendors offered all that and more to the community this year.”

It is the third season of the market, which has doubled in size since it began, from 15 to 30 vendors.

“Additionally, the market provides a vital link to the community by providing education about the benefits of eating a healthy diet of seasonal foods,” McAvay said.

The market also offers weekly workshops on how to select and prepare the various foods found in the market and provides space each week to the WSU Master Gardener program to answer questions about gardening and growing food.

In addition, the market conducts outreach with the lower income community through its work with the Women, Infants and Children Farmers Nutrition Program, and also accepts EBT cards.

“We also offer kids education and crafts at our Kids’ Connections booth and local live music each week,” McAvay said. The market also has themed days such as Berry Days, All Things Pie, and Tomato Days.

Average attendance at the market was about 1,200 people per week, a 50 percent improvement from 800 in 2009.

“Next year we plan to continue our great mix of vendors and to continue to increase our traffic as word spreads about our market,” McAvay said. “We also plan to increase outreach to vulnerable populations to ensure that everyone in our community has equal access to local, sustainable and healthy food options.”

Sergio Vera and his daughter, Madelynn, 2, just moved to Camas from Las Vegas. They attended the market for the first time last week.

“I love it so far,” Vera said. “They don’t have anything like this in Vegas. I saw them setting up earlier and thought, ‘Sweet, let’s go.'”

His wife, Jody, agreed.

“I love the small town feel,” she said. “We’ve gone from a city of two million to Camas. This is much better.”

Olga Mikhalets, who owns Svitoch European Bakery, has been a vendor at the market for three years.

“I love the friendliness of the people,” she said. “It is really nice here.”

Anthony Salas, who owns Paper Tiger Coffee, has been at the market for two years now, and opened his coffee house in Vancouver a year ago.

“It’s funny because we have been selling our coffee at the market longer than we have had an actual store,” he said. “We love the community feel in Camas and bringing the product out to customers, and having them come back every week.”

Washougal Farmer’s Market

The market started out nine years ago at the west end of Pendleton Woolen Mills, then it moved to Reflection Plaza when it was completed. It was held every Saturday from July through September from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This was a wonderful improvement, not only for the vendors but also the surrounding downtown businesses,” co-manager Mary Hargrave said. “We had some fun contests this year including a hen beauty contest, fresh berry pie, and a hot and spicy salsa festival. Since our contests have been a huge success I’m sure the farmer’s market committee will be offering more fun contests next season.”

There were also cooking demonstrations held on most Saturdays, which incorporated fresh, local produce and breads offered at the market.

“Our market has a diverse group of food/craft vendors from the main focus of produce and fruits to rustic garden furniture,” Hargrave said.

Some market offerings included produce, fruit, free-range eggs, perennials, chocolate truffles, handmade games, hand-knit baby caps, blankets artisan breads and fresh flowers, among several other offerings.

On average, between 400 to 500 people attended the market every week.

During the month of August, market organizers invited local artists for an “Artists Against Hunger Paint Out” to be the center of the market. There, they accepted donations of canned food and donated 10 percent of all art sales to the Inter-faith Treasure House.

Hargrave is looking forward to the market’s 10th year when July 2011 rolls around.

“Our farmer’s market offers fresh, local produce to the community and brings economic activity to downtown Washougal,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place for people to gather and enjoy our town in a fun, family friendly atmosphere.”