Farmers Market back in full force

Scott Swanson

After a period of reduced presence due to COVID-19, Sweet Home’s Farmers Market is back on Tuesday afternoons in the square between the old City Hall and the library, between 12th and 13th avenues off Long Street.

The market began June 7 and will run through the end of September.

“The market’s been going well,” said Chris Bayne, who manages both the Sweet Home market and Lebanon’s, which operates Thursday afternoons at the corner of Grant and Main streets through the third week of October.

Bayne, who operates Bayne Farm in Lebanon with his wife Belinda, the market director, said there are some new twists this year that benefit customers.

One is the Double Up Food Bucks program, which matches $20 in SNAP benefits with $20 from the market.

“Things are a little tight, so it’s nice for people to have that,” Bayne said, noting that the amounts have doubled from last year. “That really helps out.”

Also, the market is again offering activities for children, Power of Produce – POP, sponsored by Samaritan Health, which was on hiatus during the pandemic.

Children who engage in an activity at the POP booth – planting seeds, food tasting, exercise, etc. – get $4 to spend at the market.

“We’re trying to educate them,” Bayne said, “promote healthy eating.”

He said volunteer help is always needed. Anyone interested can contact him at (541) 921-0181.

The market includes a booth selling assorted baked goods, a honey vendor who is present every other week, a booth that sells home-grown beef and pork, appearances by Linn County Master Gardeners every other week, and occasional musical performers.

“We don’t have the funding to do music every week,” Bayne said. “During COVID we had no music, so we’re trying to get back into the swing of things. We’re working on acquiring more funding for that.”

Thanks to the chilly spring, produce is a little behind the normal schedule, Bayne said.

“The way the weather’s been, we’re lacking on some of our fruits and berries,” he said. “Produce is way down, but it’s coming. This week we have broccolis and cauliflowers, strawberries and snap peas – a lot of cold-weather crops are available right now.”

Blueberries and peaches should be right behind, he said, but “it’s a tough year for fruit, just due to the way the weather was.”