By Samantha O’Conner

soconner@bakercityherald.com

Baker City’s Farmers Market kicked off this year June 5 with 30 vendors and several nonprofits participating, and the event has continued to bring crowds to the Court Plaza on Wednesday afternoons and evenings.

The city this year allowed market organizers to use the Plaza between Main and Resort streets, the parking lot and an adjacent section of Resort Street.

MarkliAnn Johnston is this year’s market organizer. She’s been a member of the Baker City Farmers Market board of directors for two and a half years, and she said the organization is working to receive nonprofit status.

“Usually our market has a weekly total of between 17 and 22 (vendors),” Johnston said. “So we do have vendors who come part time, we have vendors who are here every single week.”

Johnston said that on a busy Wednesday the market attracts about 300 people per hour.

This year the Baker City Farmers Market is one of five that’s part of the Oregon Farmers Market Association.

The Baker City event was also picked as one of five markets for the Oregon State University Research Project Beginning Vendors Support Network.

The OSU program looks to see how beginning vendors and established vendors use farmers market, such as getting their names out to the public or using it as their main source of income.

“It’s an amazing program,” Johnston said. “They teach market managers and board members how to help inspire our new vendors, how to help more established vendors if they’re saying ‘I’m not sure why my sales keep going up and down’ and we can help them look at how is their marketing, how’s their booth presented, things like that. Which makes me really excited.”

Johnston said Baker City was chosen because “we are in such an economically depressed area” and OSU officials wanted to see how vendors do it out here.

“And usually it’s by diversity of income streams,” Johnston said.

She worked with the state farmers market group and OSU for several weeks to ensure strengthened privacy for the vendors in the market.

“I made this very clear; we have people here who have firsthand experience in privacy violation and I am not going to violate their privacy,” Johnston said. “They don’t want to be a name, they don’t have to be a name. So we worked for three weeks to get this so my vendors could impart the information that needed to be imparted and have a sense of they were being respected for not being publicly consumed.”

Among the vendors this Wednesday, a sunny and refreshingly cool day compared with the 99-degree Tuesday, was Tori Whiting, who sold homemade kettlecorn she prepared in a large kettle near her booth.

Whiting, with her mother Kathi Vinson, offered original kettle corn and a new jalapeno flavor. Whiting has set up at the Baker City Farmers Market for about six years.

The mother-daughter team also sells their sweet, crunchy trea t during the Fourth of July flea market at Sumpter, the upcoming Demolition Derby, and at private parties.

As is typical with farmers markets, some of the vendors Wednesday peddled their own homegrown produce. This included Logan Geddes of Baker City, who sold sweet onions, salad mixes, loose leaf teas, homemade candles and more.

Geddes has participated in the farmers market for three years and he also travels to La Grande for its farmers market.

Jennifer Banister of Jen’s Garden also sold produce including microgreens, salad kits, carrots, living micros and others while her grandchildren made Italian sodas and frappés.

Banister has been doing the market around 17 years. She did take a break when moving out to Keating to prep the soil for her produce.

“We were there in the beginning of the market,” Banister said. “We’ve been doing it for a very long time.”

Banister also delivers produce to commercial accounts in Keating, Baker, Haines, North Powder, Union, La Grande and Pendleton. She also does personal deliveries.

Luke Gibson, executive director of the Baker County YMCA, also had a booth at the market for two Wednesdays.

Gibson worked to make people aware of what the YMCA offers and discussing its upcoming annual fundraising campaign from Sept. 10 to Oct. 31.

‘Join Forces With the Y” is a fundraising drive that helps the YMCA’s financial assistance program to help those who cannot afford to be in a sport, purchase a membership or rejoin the YMCA.

The booth offered a coloring page headlined “A Hero Is” and encouraging people to list the attributes that make a hero. The pages will be displayed around the YMCA.

“This is to show that it doesn’t take much to be a hero,” Gibson said. “It might just be to give of yourself, it might just be to be kind to someone who needs that gentle reminder that they’re OK, it’s just all being together as our community.”

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