This post was originally written as a work sample for a job at the Vanguard, Portland State University’s weekly school newspaper. Also note that the photo below is not mine and none of the photos I use are mine, unless I state otherwise.
It’s a cold Saturday morning but the sun is shining. As you make your way over to the Park Blocks you hear a guitar and something that could pass for a folk song. You arrive to see the walkways flooded with early risers and a pinch of irregular students, studying at the library. Food stands flank the paths but you make a beeline for C’est Si Bon for a pork, caramelized onion, apple butter crepe.
This is what my Saturday morning feels like when I visit the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. If I am up early, I might make it there by 10:00am. The market, however, is up and running at 9:00am during the winter and runs until 2:00pm. I usually arrive later than I plan.
During the summer, the market is in full swing with well over a hundred vendors running a stand of one sort or another. The produce beats Safeway by a mile but you can also find meat, dairy, baked goods, and lots of specialty shops selling things like gourmet pasta sauce. Even in winter the Portland Farmers Market has a lot to offer. You can still find perfect pears, apples, root vegetables, kale and squash galore, among other things. I do recommend getting there early for the best selection.
For a student budget, you can find a lot of good food. Your best best will be in produce, dairy, and bread or bakery items. Meat will always be pricey as will specialty items. I like to take advantage of the token program in place. I get Food Stamp money every month and I take my EBT card to the market. At the information booth they can exchange a token for every dollar for EBT as well as credit/debit cards. Every stand has to take these tokens (not all take cards) and you can use them to barter down prices to the full dollar (e.g. $2.35 becomes $2.00 and you save $0.35). If the barter doesn’t work in your favor monetarily, and you end up paying $4.00 for something that cost $3.75, most vendors will throw in an extra vegetable or extra free samples. Also, the tokens are refundable at any time and never expire.
So you can get great food (including hot food), meet vendors who actually know the farmers, and maybe save a little money along the way. Going to the Portland Farmers Market is an experience that is healthy, entertaining, eco-friendly, and full of food. This includes free food, and how can you say no to that?