From our Farmers: Where do all the veggies go?

Brindley and Spencer of Tanager Farm selling their CSA shares at a neighborhood market

This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, written by Brindley Beckwith and Spencer Suffling of Tanager Farm, both enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program. In this piece, Brindley and Spencer explore options for produce outlets and find a good option in a community venue!

As we were gearing up for our first season with our very own farm and purchasing all the seeds we wanted to grow, we stopped many times and said out loud, “but where will all the veggies go?!” This was both fun and frightening to think about. When you begin the journey of starting your own market farm, you have to think about the various outlets for selling vegetables. Did we want to be a CSA Farm (Community Supported Agriculture)? Or sell to local restaurants? Maybe do wholesale or farmers markets? There are many options, and all are very unique. We knew it was important to understand what the need was, but we also wanted to consider what we would enjoy. So why not try them all?

This is not always the best approach, but we felt that with the support of the Headwaters Incubator Program we were able to start slow (and with limited start-up costs) while getting a feel for the diversity of the Portland Area markets. We learned along the way about where the need was and what we loved to do!

Spencer and Brindley - Introducing Farmers Booth

Spencer and Brindley (at left and at right) at the Woodlawn Farmers Market, also hosting an Introducing Farmers workshop that day

For our first season as Tanager Farm, we grew one acre of mixed vegetables. We had a 40-member CSA, sold to a handful of restaurants, and tried out a few weeks at the Woodlawn Farmer’s Market. We utilized their innovative Introducing Farmers Program, a partnership between the Farmer’s Market and the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. The program allows beginning farmers the opportunity to sell in a market environment without the upfront investments (tents, tables, signage, etc.). All of these selling outlets were great learning experiences, and we found so much interest from our community and people wanting to support the local food movement. So our fun yet frightening question of “where do all the veggies go?!” was quickly answered by friends, family, P’s & Q’s Market, Woodlawn Market, and more: in our bellies! We were thrilled that people were just as excited about eating our produce as we were about growing it.

A highlight for us this past season was the home and community we found at P’s & Q’s Market. This is a wonderful neighborhood market and deli, ran by our dear friends and power couple Emily and Paul. P’s & Q’s is in the Woodlawn Neighborhood of NE Portland. Not only did they support us by buying our produce for their deli and market, but they also let us hold our weekly CSA pick-up there. This became a weekly event that everyone looked forward to. We would set-up our produce market-style, members would grab a meal and a beer, chat with each other, listen to the live music. They could take their time collecting their veggies and chat with us about the week and the produce.

This was the very important “Community” part of Community Supported Agriculture that can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. We were so thankful to have that built-in community at P’s & Q’s Market this season. So many times it kept us going, kept us energized and excited; it was something we looked forward to each week. This is the market farm model that we are drawn to, and we will continue to grow this special relationship with P’s & Q’s Market and the wonderful neighborhood community that comes with it.