Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why I Love (and Volunteer at a) Farmers' Markets

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I didn't have much exposure to Farmers' Markets. During the summer and fall my family would go out to pick berries, apples, and pumpkins, but that was sort of the extent of my knowledge. However, I used to take family vacations every year to Vermont (Smugglers' Notch near Stowe) and would go to their farmers' markets. I was very impressed at a young age at how beautiful the market was. In hindsight there was only a couple vendors and it was extremely small, but I was intrigued nonetheless. As a child, the colors, smells, and tastes of the market were enchanting and I found myself asking my parents to buy a lot more produce than we probably needed at the time. There was something special about that experience that ended up staying with me.

Fast forward to being an "adult" and moving across the country to Portland. One of the most popular sights that all the tour guides talked about was the Portland Farmers' Market at PSU. It sounded fun so my family decided to go check it out. My first time there I was amazed by how big it was! There were so many different vendors with such diverse produce, many of which I didn't even know by name. As I strolled through the market for the first time, I remember thinking that this was the epitome of Portland- a community of people passionate about their food. So I sampled my way through the produce, took a bunch of pictures, and ended up stopping by the information booth. That is when I first meet some market volunteers and decided then and there that I wanted to be apart of this community.

I began volunteering a couple of weeks afterwards and really enjoyed working with some amazing people. It was fun to learn about the different vendors and foods of the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed interacting with people who were passionate about eating fresh produce and supporting local farmers in the process. As I began to become comfortable with the market, I would venture out and begin asking a bunch of questions. I stopped by this one stand that was selling pumpkins and decided then and there to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. When I asked the vendor what kind of pumpkin would be the best for pie, she went into a whole discussion about pumpkins and ended up giving me a recipe she loved to use when making pumpkin pie. So I bought my pumpkin, followed the directions in my own kitchen, and all the sudden I had a pumpkin pie from scratch! And let me tell you, the roasted pumpkin smelled heavenly.

I love that everyone there loves food. Whether you run a 5 star restaurant downtown or don't know how to roast a vegetable, you can enjoy coming to a market and buying a beautiful assortment of food. I love that all the vendors are more than happy to share some cooking tips when you ask them. I love the passion the vendors have for their produce. I love the community aspect. The market really is meant for people of all ages. When I eventually have kids, I will definitely bring them to the market to learn about food and where it comes from. Kids are much more willing to try new foods when they have a hand in picking out the produce and cooking the end product. Plus who doesn't love free samples?

All in all, I've had great experiences both as a consumer and as a volunteer at farmers' markets. While I obviously can only speak to volunteering at 2 different markets and being a regular customer at a handful, I really do believe in their mission of creating a sustainable, not-for-profit environment to provide the community with fresh products from local farmers and producers. I do believe farmers' markets mutually benefit both the individual vendors as well as the community as a whole. I'm proud to serve just a small part in making these markets a success. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cannon Beach Long Weekend

This labor day weekend was perfect. Dan and I packed up the car, grabbed the dog, and drove to Cannon Beach, OR, just a little over an hour outside of Portland. We spent the majority of our long weekend taking in some beautiful Oregon scenery. While I have already live over 3 years in this state, I am still amazed at just how much it has to offer. I highly recommend taking a visit to the Pacific Coast if the opportunity arises!

After work on Friday, we made the drive to Cannon Beach and checked into a cute little hotel called Inn at Cannon Beach.

We went there a couple years ago and it was just as charming as I remembered it being. They have a whole bunch of adorable tame bunnies running around Cannon Beach, and it was really funny to watch Scout try to figure out how he should react. Once we had everything settled into our room, we took an evening walk together to work up our appetite for dinner.

The sunsets are so beautiful on the Pacific Coast. The sun conveniently sets over the water, so I don't have to be that crazy person who wakes up at sunrise to get these kind of pictures.

On Saturday, we leashed up the pup and went to Ecola State Park.We ended up doing the Ecola State Park Loop, which was a total of 8 miles round trip. It was a beautiful hike along the coast with some amazing view points.

Saturday night I had made dinner reservations at Stephanie Inn, and both Dan and I walked away pretty impressed. In general, the Oregon Coast doesn't boost as many delicious restaurants as Portland does, but this one was very good. They had a prix fixe menu with seasonal options, but you could also order a la carte. I ended up getting a crab and artichoke gratin appetizer that was to die for. I'll definitely be going back there again.

Sunday morning consisted of a morning run for me (and some extra sleep for the fiance and dog) and then a shorter hike in the afternoon. We headed to Oswald West State Park and did the Cape Falcon trail. This was a 2.5 mile (one way) out and back hike that had the most amazing view at the end of the hike.

You can see Scout and I taking in the beautiful views at the end of the trail. Definitely worth it.

Monday was supposed to be snooze in day, but after Scout had initially woke me up I couldn't seem to go back to sleep so I took a nice long walk on the beach with the pup. I ended up chatting with one of my girlfriends about her upcoming wedding, which was wonderful as usual.

Once we finished our walk we got Dan moving and packed up the car. After we checked out, we went to a cute little coffee shop for some breakfast and then decided to head home early in order to have plenty of time to do our weekly errands.

It was definitely a beautiful, relaxing weekend that we both needed.