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Meet Your Farmers

Lately my wife and I have been enjoying a sublime sandwich for our lunches (and occasional dinners): sourdough bread, spread generously with mayonnaise, and filled with fresh lettuce and a whole sliced tomato from the Portland Farmers' Market.

The market's food offerings are near their fullest for the next few weeks: there are still lots of summer-season crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, salad greens, and a few peaches, but there are also bushels of fall crops coming in, including squashes, broccoli, and apples (if you're visiting from out of town, you'll find the market on Wednesdays in Monument Square 'till 2 pm and on Saturdays in Deering Oaks until noon).

The market's operations haven't changed much over the course of its 244-year history. But this year, a new token program was established to allow more farmers to accept credit cards and EBT payments from the state's food stamp program. Rather than burdening each vendor with the hassles and expenses of card-reading equipment, the token program allows customers to buy wooden tokens in a centralized booth, which are then accepted as currency among the market's vendors.

While increasing convenience, the new token system has also drastically increased access to the market from food stamp recipients. In a 12-month period, food stamp spending at the market exceeded $50,000 — a substantial boon to the farmers' bottom line, and good news as well for the health and well-being of local families.

In the upcoming year, though, the market needs to raise funds to staff the Market Information Booth and manage the token program. If successful, these funds might allow for additional customer services at the market, like cooking demonstrations and tours. They've already crowdfunded $2,000 to start, and at the end of this month, at the height of the harvest season, they've planned a big fundraiser with local chefs and Chreston Sorenson of Bunker Brewing (whom I wrote about here just last week).

For $25, you'll get to enjoy fresh local produce prepared by some of the city's best chefs, two complimentary pours from Bunker's taps, and coffee from Tandem next door (I'll stop writing about these guys as soon as they stop doing awesome projects). Lots of the market's farmers also plan to attend after they finish packing up from the morning market in Deering Oaks, so its a good chance to enjoy their company in a more relaxed atmosphere.

It's happening on Saturday the 29th in the old scrap yard at 122 Anderson Street — buy your tickets in advance here.

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