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Farmers markets go head-to-head

INDEPENDENCE -- Is this town big enough for two farmers markets?

Jeannie Berg, right, is among the vendors founding the new Independence Riverview Market, which will take place at Riverview Park and Amphitheater Saturday.

Photo by Pete Strong

Jeannie Berg, right, is among the vendors founding the new Independence Riverview Market, which will take place at Riverview Park and Amphitheater Saturday.

August 07, 2012

INDEPENDENCE -- Is this town big enough for two farmers markets?

We'll find out this weekend.

The Independence Riverview Market (IRM) will make its debut at Riverview Park and Amphitheater, in front of the colonnade, on Saturday -- with the same operating hours as the already established Independence Farmers Market (IFM) to the south on Monmouth Street behind Sterling Bank.

This new venture is spearheaded by Jeannie Berg, Malinda Bermudez and Karen Versteeg, three recently-resigned IFM board members.

Berg, who owns Your Hometown Harvests and was a vendor at the older market, said the move was about expansion. The group wanted to offer features such as music, food, demonstrations and special activities. Saturday's opening, for example, will feature a Zumba class from 10 to 11 a.m.

"We had gotten to the point where the parking lot holds about 15 booths and if we wanted to grow, we had no place to do that," she said. "There were some of us who wanted to see the market grow and some who were content to be where it is."

Berg estimates eight to 10 vendor booths will be on hand to begin with on Saturday, including Oak Point Nursery, Bermudez Family Farm and The Akha Farm of Falls City. Some of those were previously IFM vendors.

Berg said having a market at the park means fewer space constraints than the lot on Monmouth Street.

IRM recently filed for 501(c)3 nonprofit status, which Berg said would give them an opportunity to apply for grant money and USDA funding. IRM will also conduct visits to vendor farms to make certain they're growing what they're selling.

"As a farmer, you can kind of tell when a booth at a farmers market isn't growing their produce -- when there's a lot of stuff out of season or, for example, you have a bunch of cucumbers that are all the same size and waxed," Berg said.

"We really want to showcase what's grown nearby," she added.

A hope is the new effort will draw people in from the Salem area. Berg said she believes the existence of a new market in a more visible place will actually help IFM on Monmouth Street, which began almost 20 years ago.

"The more people there are downtown, the better it is for everybody," she said. "We still have friends at the old market and we wish them well."

Martha Walton, who's managed the IFM since 1999, said there was indeed a disagreement about the direction of the original market with the former board members. She noted they were asked not to set up near Sterling Bank this past weekend.

Walton said that the IFM location has sufficient space and that no applicant vendors have ever been turned down.

"If it's what they want to do, more power to them," Walton said of the split. "I hope their market works out for them."

Asked if the move would take business away from IFM, Walton said "maybe a little bit in the beginning.

"But in the long run, it won't hurt us," she said. "The customers know us."

Check Them Out

What: Independence Riverview Market.

Where: Riverview Park and Amphitheater.

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through October.

For more information or to inquire about about being a vendor: independenceriverviewmarket@gmail.com; independenceriverviewmarket.com and 503-689-2784.

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What: Independence Farmers Market

Where: Lot adjacent to Sterling Bank

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until Thanksgiving.

For more information or to inquire about being a vendor: 503-881-9950 or 503-838-5424.

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