Ag Fest attracts 20,000 attendees

Weather smiled on the 32nd annual Oregon Ag Fest last weekend and nearly 20,000 children and adults were there to enjoy it.

The goal of the two-day hands-on activity-filled festival at the Oregon State Fairgrounds is to provide a fun educational experience that children — and their parents — where their food and fiber comes from.

In the Ag Country building, kids dug in the dirt for potatoes, made lotion out of sheep lanolin and watched chicks hatch.

In the Livestock pavilion, they watched herd dogs work, sheep sheared and saw and petted most of the farm animals raised in the state.

To round out a complete list of sheep breeds grown in the state, Mary Smallman, director and instructor at the Oregon State University Sheep Center, brought two student staff members, two volunteers and a Polypay ewe and her one-month-old lambs for children to pet.

“The lambs were one of the biggest draws for the kids and adults alike,” Smallman said of her first experience at the FFA-sponsored Ag Fest petting zoo. “We rotated them about every 30 minutes or changed them out when we saw they were getting fidgety.”

Because OSU has a protocol that doesn’t allow an animal that has been petted to return to the sheep center, Smallman donated the sheep to Cascade High School’s FFA “in payment for all the help they gave us during the show.”

“I think my favorite experience over the two days, and one I won’t forget, was the excited little girl who stood up straight and tall and said, ‘That’s a sheep. And when you shear her wool, she’ll be a goat,’” Smallman said. “We answered a lot of questions during the two days.”

Vern Herrick, a farmer in Springfield, Ore., and one of the 800-plus volunteers it takes to run the event, talked fondly about helping children plant the seedlings he and his wife, Paula, grow for the event.

“It is rewarding to be one of the Oregon State Grange volunteers that gets to show kids how to grow things,” Herrick said. “In our booth they chose to plant a flower or a tomato and they get to take it home. As much as I like teaching them how to do it, I like it best when they come back in the following year and proudly tell me how successful they were and how delicious the tomatoes tasted.”

WSU sets field tour season

Herbicide resistance and seed emergence will be among the many traits farmers think about when they look over new wheat varieties during Washington State University’s upcoming crop tour season.

“It’s going to be a busy June and July,” said Aaron Esser, interim director of WSU’s variety testing program.

Farmers take field trial results into account when considering wheat varieties for fall seeding.

Managing herbicides and herbicide resistance will also be top-of-mind for most growers, Esser said.

The growing season so far has been relatively quiet, Esser said, pointing to low stripe rust pressure.

“We have moisture in the soil profile, but it’s not as good as what we’ve had,” he said of the Davenport area. “We’re an inch or two off the last year or two.”

Varieties to watch include Norwest Duet, from Limagrain and Oregon State University; several Limagrain varieties and WSU’s Resilience and Purl, Esser said.

The schedule adds an Almira tour this year, replacing a tour in Creston last year.

The schedule:

• Horse Heaven: 8 a.m. June 4, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Ritzville: 1 p.m. June 5, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Western Whitman County (LaCrosse): 8:30 a.m. June 6, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

• Connell: 5 p.m. June 6, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Pendleton, Ore., field day: 7:30 a.m. June 11, contact Stewart Wuest at 541-278-4381

• Moro, Ore., field day: 7:30 a.m., June 12, contact Stewart Wuest at 541-278-4381

• Lind: 8:30 a.m., June 13, contact Bill Schillinger at 509-235-1933

• Harrington: 4 p.m., June 13, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• St. Andrews: 5 p.m. June 14, contact Dale Whaley at 509-745-8531

• Moses Lake (irrigated): 8 a.m., June 18, contact Andy McGuire at 509-754-2011

• Pullman (WSU weed science): 1 p.m., June 19, contact Drew Lyon at 509-335-2961

• St. John: 10 a.m. June 19, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

• Lamont: 1:30 p.m., June 19, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

• Bickleton: 11 a.m. June 20, contact Hannah Brause at 509-773-5817

• Mayview: 9 a.m. June 21, contact Mark Heitstuman at 509-243-2009

• Anatone: 3:30 p.m. June 21, contact Mark Heitstuman at 509-243-2009

• Eureka (with Oregon State University and Northwest Grain Growers): 3 p.m. June  24, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Walla Walla (cereals; with Oregon State University and Northwest Grain Growers):  1 p.m., June 25, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Wilke Farm Field Day, Davenport: 8 a.m., June 26, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Reardan: 2 p.m., June 26, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• University of Idaho/Limagrain, Lewiston, Idaho: 8:30 a.m., June 27, contact Doug Finklenberg at 208-799-3096

• Dayton (cereals and legumes, with Oregon State University and Northwest Grain Growers): 8 a.m., June 27, contact Paul Carter at 509-382-4741

• Almira: 3 p.m., June 27,  contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Fairfield: 8 a.m., June 28, contact Aaron Esser at 509-659-3210

• Farmington: 8 a.m., July 9, contact Steve Van Vleet at 509-397-6290

Ag Census shows declining farmland in Oregon

PORTLAND — From his 56-acre family farm in rural West Linn, Ore., about 15 miles south of Portland, Richard Fiala has observed a worrisome trend.

Land that Fiala, 62, remembers haying 30 years ago is now crowded with houses, or awaiting development at the hands of investors as the region’s cities plan for urban growth.

Figures from the newly released 2017 Census of Agriculture reveal that Oregon, like the U.S. in general, is steadily losing farmland. That has raised concerns not only about food production and security, but also fish and wildlife habitat provided by working farms and ranches.

The USDA conducts the Census of Agriculture every five years. It provides a full count of farms across the country, broken down by income, crops and production practices.

What the numbers show is a decline in the amount of farmland for every census taken over the last 20 years. Between 1997 and 2017, total land in farm production fell roughly 6% nationwide, from approximately 954.7 million acres to a little more than 900 million acres.

The downturn is even steeper in Oregon, from 17.6 million acres in 1997 to 15.9 million acres in 2017, or nearly 10%. That’s an average of 85,000 acres, or 132.8 square miles, of farms each year.

Jim Johnson, land use and water planning coordinator for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the state is clearly losing farmland. Less obvious are the reasons why.

“(The census) doesn’t tell us what the land that was in farms was changed to,” Johnson said.

Drawing conclusions practically requires a county-by-county examination. For example, Klamath County in Southern Oregon lost the highest percentage of farms and ranches from 2012 to 2017 — 165,417 acres, or 25.7%. But Johnson said much of that land may only be temporarily out of production, due to lingering water shortages and uncertainty in the Klamath Basin.

On the other hand, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — which make up the Portland metro area — lost 40,807 combined acres, likely to urbanization, Johnson said.

“I can’t think of a lot of land, especially cropland, that wouldn’t be kept in production in the Willamette Valley unless it was being converted to something else,” he said.

Fiala’s grandparents bought the property that would become Fiala Farms, north of the Tualatin River, in 1906. The family had a small dairy and grew cabbage and other row crops to sell at a fresh market in East Portland.

Today, Richard Fiala runs the farm with his siblings, Anne, Doug and Wes. They grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for sale at their farmstand, and host all types of events from about mid-July through Halloween.

Farming around the nearby suburbs of West Linn and Lake Oswego, Fiala said the area is well within arm’s reach of urban development — especially if farms do not have a succession plan or conservation easement to keep the land in agricultural production.

“What we’ve seen in the last 30 years is speculators and developers come in when a farm hasn’t stayed in the family,” Fiala said.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would provide $10 million over the next biennium to fund the state Agricultural Heritage Program, created in 2017 as a voluntary grant program to help farmers and ranchers with succession planning, easements and other conservation strategies.

The funding measure, House Bill 2729, is up for consideration in the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Nellie McAdams, a consultant formerly with the Rogue Farm Corps, has advocated strongly for HB 2729. With two-thirds of Oregon’s farmland set to change hands over the next 20 years, McAdams said it is imperative to stem further losses.

“Those agricultural lands are not permanently protected,” McAdams said. “Once agricultural land is developed, it permanently falls out of production. You can’t un-build a Walmart.”

Johnson, with the ODA, said land use planning goals adopted by the state in 1973 have slowed the rate of decline for farmland, but acknowledged that issues still remain. Goal 3, specifically, requires counties to identify farmland and establishes an “exclusive farm use” zone that limits development.

“We’ve still got issues with conversion of farmland,” Johnson said. “We still have to get into policy discussions about urban growth, and where it’s going to occur.”

Otherwise, McAdams said she wonders when the losses will add up to a breaking point.

“For an urban city-dweller, that means you don’t have access to local food, you don’t have food security, and you would also lose open space habitat that almost every farm offers,” McAdams said. “We need to act now to reverse the loss of farmland from agricultural production.”

Fraga Farmstead and Creamery puts goats, environment first

GALES CREEK VALLEY, Ore. — Growing up in post-World War II Germany, Elisabeth Bueschen-Monahan of Fraga Farmstead and Creamery remembers cornering older family members to ask about their involvement in the upheaval and what they could have done differently.

As global climate change continues to progress, Bueschen-Monahan said she firmly believes that her grandchildren will ask her similar questions, and she doesn’t want to say that she just drove a Prius.

“We have a responsibility that no one is taking seriously,” she said. Besides, she adds, the possibilities of pasture-based farming are some “of the most exciting possibilities.”

A small creamery with a herd of 64 goats, Fraga is dedicated to ethical animal and environmental welfare. Bueschen-Monahan also wants to help educate consumers by bringing them out to the barn and showing that there are more options besides buying conventional products and going vegan.

“People don’t know how animals are being treated and when they do know, they go vegan and that hurts small, ethical producers like us,” she said. “It’s complicated.”

A half hour west of Portland on 33.5 acres that have been farmed since the 1920s, Fraga was the first goat dairy to be certified organic through Oregon Tilth. As one of a handful of goat dairies in the state, when goat cheese rose in popularity the competition became the biggest challenge for small, artisan producers, and still is.

“There’s more competition from two sides: artisan and big producers,” she said.

Diversification is one tool that Fraga’s owners  has used to set themselves apart. They make seven varieties of cheese: Rio Santiam, a natural rind raw milk cheese aged for several months that is reminiscent of an aged cheddar; raw milk feta; goatzarella; Foster Lake Camembert; farmhouse cheese; farmhouse chipotle; and chevre three ways.

The creamery also sells goat milk caramels, which are available for purchase on their website, and their cheese is used in Amy’s Kitchen’s Bay Area restaurant. Amy’s is also an organic food producer that has products in grocery stores across the country.

“Cheese making is a lot less glamorous than people think,” Bueschen-Monahan said. “It’s mostly people doing the cleanup work. Milk can grow bacteria well, but you have to have everything squeaky clean so none of the wrong bacteria grows. Beyond that, it’s total alchemy.”

The original Fraga Farm was started in 1918 by Agnes Gloria Fraga in California. The state broke up the property in 1980 to build Highway 580 and the family moved to Oregon.

In 2012, Bueschen-Monahan with her husband and cheese maker, Steve Monahan, took over the herd when the Fraga family sold the creamery.

At the time, Bueschen-Monahan had a herd of nine goats and was selling raw milk — which is legal in Oregon if there are nine or fewer goats.

However, they wanted to grow their business, and when they saw the Fraga farm was for sale they bought the whole operation.

“We wanted a real production and we wanted one that cared for the animals’ needs,” Bueschen-Monahan said. “All the goats had names, and they were small enough to pay attention to the animals and cater to their needs.”

Bueschen-Monahan continues that practice by letting the female kids be raised by their mothers.

She bottle feeds the males because she said if all the babies drank the goat milk, by the time they were all weaned they “will have sucked down $600 worth of cheese,” but it’s important to her that the goat mothers can raise some of their kids.

OSU hosts organic strawberry management event

Oregon State University Extension Service will host a hands-on organic strawberry workshop May 10 at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center.

“This hands-on workshop will teach you about organic methods for extending your season — both early and late — with transplant production and low tunnels, how to use fertigation for adequate soil fertility and plant nutrition, organic pest management and more,” according to an OSU flyer about the event.

The workshop will be conducted from 1 to 4 p.m. The research center is at 15210 NE Miley Rd,  Aurora.

The event is part of OSU’s Mid-Willamette Valley Small Farms & Berry Initiative. Registration is $10. For more information, or to register, go to the event’s website.

Climatologists: Northwest can expect warm summer

The El Nino that was too late and too weak to have much influence last winter may stick around and grow stronger by next winter, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

On the other hand, it may just fade away.

A new outlook by the center forecasts above-average temperatures for May, June and July in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California.

The precipitation forecast, however, is more complicated. The odds favor a drier-than-normal spring in Western Washington and northwest Oregon. Odds are tilted toward above-normal rainfall in most of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and northeast California. Elsewhere, it’s a toss-up.

El Nino figures prominently in the forecast. Since last fall, surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator have been higher than usual.

Not until February did the warm water link up with the atmosphere to cause a weak El Nino, which generally leads to above-average temperatures in the Northwest.

The El Nino looked puny in March, especially in Eastern Washington. Average temperatures were 6 to 12 degrees below normal, according to the Office of the Washington State Climatologist.

Looking ahead, the Climate Prediction Center projects there is a 65% chance the El Nino will stick around through the summer and a 50 to 55% chance it will persist through the fall.

Researcher seeks urban opportunities

Blue tomatoes! Mild habanero peppers! Never heard of such things? That’s the point, says Washington State University Extension agricultural specialist Justin O’Dea. They’re novel and just might fill a niche.

O’Dea works in a fast-growing county across the Columbia River from Portland. The county has the same rich soil as the Willamette Valley, but the farmland has been broken up for homes. Half the county’s 1,978 farms are less than 10 acres, according to the just-released 2017 Census of Agriculture.

O’Dea said he sees no reversing the trend toward smaller-acreage farms. Therefore, his goal is to help growers maximize per-acre returns with high-value crops for local consumption and processing.

“The challenge is to turn urbanization into an economic opportunity,” said O’Dea, 40. “One thing we’re not short on the westside (of the Cascades) is urban markets.”

WSU Clark County Extension operates on the county-owned 78th Street Heritage Farm, once the county poor farm. Homes and businesses surround the 79 acres of open space. A native New Yorker, O’Dea came here in mid-2017 to test growing crops that could help small farmers thrive financially.

“I’ll try to make the mistakes here instead of the farmers doing it,” O’Dea said.

Too late?
Clark County Farm Bureau President Bill Zimmerman said he hopes it’s not too late.

“If we had a county agent like Justin 30 years ago, 40 years ago, we’d be in a lot better shape,” Zimmerman said. “We really are impressed with what he’s doing.”

O’Dea, whose grandparents farmed in New York, came West to Washington to go to college. He graduated in 2003 from The Evergreen State College in Olympia. He earned a master’s degree in land resources and environmental sciences in 2011 at Montana State University.

For the five years before joining WSU, O’Dea was back in New York working for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in the Hudson Valley.

O’Dea said he was attracted to WSU in part because of his background in working with grains and the research being done at WSU’s Bread Lab in Mount Vernon.

To test growing varieties of grain, O’Dea has planted 1.6 acres of wheat, barley and rye. The varieties are from WSU, Oregon State University and a private company.

County farmers may be well situated to supply grains for craft brewers, craft distillers, craft malt houses and artisan bakers, he said.

Three Clark County farmers grew wheat in 2017 and one grew barley, according to the census. Nevertheless, O’Dea said the climate is good for grain — ample rain, but dry summers.

O’Dea also plans to try growing crops that overwinter well and can be harvested in the late fall and early spring, exploiting a demand for year-round local fresh produce. He said he will start with organic kale.

Also, he said he will try growing a variety of strawberries and vegetables, such as the blue tomatoes and mild habanero peppers, indoors and outdoors.

Value-added options

“I’m trying to give examples of ways farmers could diversify and link up with value-added opportunities,” O’Dea said.

According to the 2017 census, on average farms in Clark County that year lost $4,844.

“My pessimistic view is you’re seeing the end of agriculture in Clark County, at least production agriculture,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, whose farm sells fruits and vegetables directly to customers from a roadside store, said every time a farmer retires, a developer buys the land. Water is in demand, too, and agriculture hasn’t fared well under county rules, he said.

Zimmerman said his store was “grandfathered” in and exempted from new county building and zoning laws that would be impossible for him to meet. “If I had to start from scratch, I couldn’t afford to do it,” he said.

Still, he said, there are all these residents close by, and they eat.

“If people can do direct marketing and cut out the middle man, it can be quite an opportunity,” Zimmerman said.

O’Dea said the county is in a “time of transition and reinvention.”

“It is as risky as it is exciting,” he said. “Clark County is tricky. We lack the (agricultural) benefits of a low population, but we have all these local markets.”


Christmas tree checkoff faces referendum again

The fate of a checkoff program that raises money to promote and research Christmas trees will again be put to a vote among farmers starting this month.

People who harvest or import more than 500 Christmas trees per year will cast their ballots on whether to continue funding the Christmas Tree Promotion Board from April 22 until May 17.

In a referendum held last year, farmers approved the checkoff by a margin of just 16 votes out of 800 cast, but the USDA — which oversees the program — decided to hold another vote in 2019.

About 1,200 farmers and importers currently pay 15 cents per tree to fund the checkoff, which raises about $1.8 million a year for promotions aimed at competing against fake trees, as well as research to solve production problems.

Controversy has dogged the checkoff before it began operating in 2015, with the program’s implementation stalled for several years due to allegations it amounted to a “Christmas tree tax.”

Supporters of the checkoff say that promotional spending is a worthwhile investment to prevent real trees from losing market share, while critics argue the money has not meaningfully increased sales for individual farmers.

“The real benefit comes from year after year of that message getting out,” said Betty Malone, an Oregon farmer who spearheaded the effort to begin the checkoff.

The initial referendum was held after the program had concluded three seasons of marketing campaigns, which largely focused on targeting consumers through social media.

The campaigns touted the value of real trees in forming lasting family memories, as well as their environmental benefits and importance to domestic farmers.

Money collected from farmers is also paying for research into reducing such pests as slugs and elongated hemlock scale, a destructive insect, among other problems facing the industry, Malone said.

“No one has got the money to sponsor the research that’s needed,” she said. “It’s these kinds of things that benefit the entire industry that the Christmas Tree Promotion Board should be doing.”

Malone said there’s a lack of clarity as to why USDA decided to hold another referendum so soon after the first, effectively punishing the program for a close victory.

“In a democracy, it shouldn’t matter if it was one vote or 100 votes,” she said.

Farmers Against Christmas Tree Taxation, a group that’s campaigning against the checkoff, is optimistic that a majority of farmers will vote against the program in 2019, said Frans Kok, a Virginia grower who organized the group.

Last year, several dozen ballots weren’t counted because the USDA received them too late and FACTT expects those votes swayed heavily against the checkoff, he said.

Growers who have avoided paying the annual assessment can nonetheless vote in the referendum, though they must show they’re eligible to cast ballots, Kok said. This verification process takes time, which is likely why their ballots arrived late.

“This year, we have focused very heavily on those people,” he said. “A lot of it will depend on the brave farmers who step forward.”

The results of the referendum are kept confidential by USDA and cannot be used to fine farmers who have avoided paying their annual checkoff assessments, Kok said.

Christmas tree research is more effective when its locally focused and overseen by academics, while the promotions haven’t been effective — particularly compared to direct marketing by individual farmers, he said.

Consumers who prefer real trees are generally families with young children who have a Christian heritage, Kok said.

The industry’s penetration of that market has basically stayed the same, while artificial trees are favored by the elderly and young adults without families, he said. “Our market segment hasn’t changed over decades.”

Ag census shows drop in farms, acres and income

U.S. agriculture gained farmers in 2017, but lost farms, acres and income compared to five years earlier, according to the Census of Agriculture released April 11.

The average farmer got a little older, and fewer farms were owned by families or partners. Most lost money.

There were more young farmers. There was, however, a decline in farmers of prime-working age. The number of farms under 10 acres and more than 2,000 acres increased, while there was a decrease in mid-sized farms.

“We are pleased to deliver Census of Agriculture results to America, and especially to the farmers and ranchers who participated,” Secretary of Agriculture Sony Perdue said in a written statement. “We can all use the census to tell the tremendous story of U.S. agriculture and how it is changing.”

Conducted by the USDA every five years, the census attempts to survey every farm that produces at least $1,000 worth of goods in a year. More than one-third of the farms surveyed reported sales of less than $2,500.

The census provides a nationwide look, and also state and county level information. Yakima and Grant counties in Washington were the ninth and 10th, respectively, top producing counties in the U.S. in 2017. California was the top producing state, followed by Iowa, Texas, Nebraska and Kansas.

The USDA counted 2,042,200 farms in 2017, 3.2% fewer than 2012 and 7% fewer than 2007.

The USDA identified about 900 million farm acres, 1.6% less than in 2012 and 5.7% less than in 1997. The loss over 20 years totaled 54.5 million acres.

The number of farms under 10 acres increased by 22%, while the number of farms over 2,000 acres increased by 3.5%.

Categories in between lost farms. The drop was particularly steep in farms between 50 and 179 acres, with a decline of 10.9%. For farms between, 180 to 499 acres, the drop was 8.9%

The size of the average farm in 2017 was 441 acres, compared to 434 acres in 2012 and 418 acres in 2007.

Farms produced $388.5 billion worth of goods in 2017, down 1.5% from the $394.6 billion sold in 2012. Other farm-related income, such as agritourism, totaled $16.8 billion, while government payments were 8.9 billion.

Production expenses declined by 1% to $326.4 billion from $328.9 billion.

Net farm income was $87.9 billion, down from $92.3 billion in 2012. The figures were not adjusted for inflation.

Slightly more than half the farms, some 1.1 million, reported losing money. The average loss was $20,997.

For the farms that made money, the average gain was $125,754. In all, per-farm net income averaged $43,750, a 2% drop over five years earlier.

Family farms are still dominant, though the number declined to 1.75 million, a drop of 4.2% from the 1.82 million family farms in 2012.

Corporations — both family- and investor-owned entities — owned 116,840 farms, up 9.4% from 106,716 in 2012. The number of farms owned by partnerships declined to 130,173 from 137,987.

The number of farms owned by trusts, estates, associations and Indian tribes increased to 44,081 from 35,654.

A trend toward fewer but bigger dairies continued. The USDA counted 54,599 dairies, down 14% from five years earlier. Over that time, the number of milk cows increased by 3.1%. The number of dairies in 2017 was less than half the 125,000 diaries counted in 1997.

The average farmer got one year older over the five years between censuses. In 2017, the average age was 57.5, compared to 56.3 in 2012.

Some demographic numbers between the 2017 and 2012 censuses are not directly comparable. The USDA counted nearly 3.4 million farmers in 2017, up by 6.9% from the 3.18 million counted in 2012. Farms could report up to four operators in 2017, compared to three in 2012.

More farmers, 1.9 million, had a primary occupation other than farming in 2017.

There was a 10.8% increase in farmers 34 and younger, but there was a 16.8% drop in farmers between 45 and 54.

The census included new information about producers in farming fewer than 10 years. The USDA counted 908,274 “young producers,” with an average age of 46.3.

About 11 percent of farmers were military veterans. The average age was 67.9, more than a decade older than the overall average.

State organization honors farmers’ market manager

ROSEBURG, Ore. — After just two years, Amanda Pastoria’s impact on the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market in Roseburg as its manager has been recognized and honored at the state level.

Pastoria was named 2019 Oregon Market Manager by the Oregon Farmers Market Association at the organization’s annual meeting on Feb. 22 in Corvallis, Ore. There are about 105 farmers’ markets in the state.

“I cried, and I’m not a crier,” Pastoria said of hearing her name. “I was overcome with emotion, I was super touched.

“I’m definitely filled with gratitude,” the 42-year-old added. “I work hard at what I do and it’s nice to receive the appreciation.”

The Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market, a year-round Saturday market, has experienced increases in vendors, customers and sales in the past two years. Pastoria said vendor spaces have increased by 18%, SNAP sales by 12% and credit card sales by 67% in those two years. The market hit a record high 58 vendors at its peak last summer.

“We’ve had some incredibly small businesses pop up,” Pastoria said. “It’s nice to see that entrepreneurial spirit, to see success stories here at the market.”

Pastoria has established the Food Hero and Fruit and Veggie Prescription programs at the market. Last summer’s 10-week Food Hero program attracted 672 kids who sampled a fruit or veggie recipe, then did an activity and were rewarded with a $2 voucher to spend at the market on fruits and vegetables.

“It’s all about health and wellness,” Pastoria said of the two programs.

Pastoria has also created special activities that enhance the market at Easter, Fourth of July, National Farmers’ Market Week in August and at Halloween.

“I’m always looking for new fun ways to bring people in to enjoy the market on Saturdays,” Pastoria said.

Jim Leet, a 14-year small farm vendor at the market and a past president of the market’s board, said Pastoria has been innovative.

“She’s brought in some new fresh ideas, celebrations that spotlight different times of the year,” Leet said. “She’s been successful in getting those ideas and activities implemented and they have helped bring in new people. She hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down since.”

Prior to becoming the market’s manager a couple years ago, Pastoria worked at the Big Lick Farm booth in trade for produce. She liked the culture of the market so much that she had her own kitchen certified, made organic vegan and vegetarian foods, and opened her own booth, Nurturing Your Nest, at the market.

But when previous market manager Heather Barklow resigned, Pastoria knew that position was “an excellent fit for me.” She applied and was hired.

“I feel so grateful to do a job that I am passionate about, and love,” she wrote in a letter to the market vendors. “I am incredibly blessed to work with so many creative, hard-working, loyal and dependable vendors. They give the community a reason to gather. They educate the community. They create the desire for our community to return to us each week for amazing quality, local goods.”

Pastoria also recently accepted the market manager position for the Canyonville Farmers’ Market in Canyonville, Ore. She’ll manage that market’s summer season, on Wednesdays, from May to September.