By John Adair
June 4 was a standard Saturday morning in the Pacific Northwest. A light rain fell on shoppers as they wandered the Lane County Farmers Market and Pavilion. Tom Murray, 44, of Slo Farm, admitted he hoped for sunnier weather but said it was still a great day.
The day was an important moment for the City of Eugene and the Lane County Farmers Market (LCFM). In over 100 years since it began, the market now has a building dedicated to its operations, and that first Saturday in June was their first day in the new space.
As president of the board, Murray has been committed to the success of LCFM and its relationship to the community. He sees the City of Eugene’s commitment to the structure as a gateway to new possibilities in strengthening the community through the power of food. Both he and Alexis Molinari, manager of LCFM, have fighting the inequities of food access in mind. Their program Double Up Bucks, where the market matches EBT funds up to a certain amount, is part of that fight.
Another aspect of their goals would be increasing accessibility for new vendors who are traditionally disadvantaged. With the new Farmers Market Pavilion and Plaza’s larger lot they believe the extra space offers an opportunity for improving the market’s multicultural representation.
“The expansion,” Molinari said, “has allowed for us to increase by nearly 35-40% the number of vendors on site on any given market day.”
The LCFM traces its origins to Eugene Producers Market in 1915. The market went on, in the same space where the new pavilion stands, until 1959 when it shut down for two decades. Since reorganizing under a new name in 1979, LCFM has seen a steady increase in visitors. Thanks to the outdoor setting, numbers continued to grow throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as more people sought out occasions to be outside and local sources for their food.
While vendors have enjoyed the temporary location on 5th Street, Murray continues to look ahead at what is to come with the new building. In addition to being able to house more vendors and operate year-round, it features a fully operational kitchen. During a recent tour, Murray showed off the area and described how it will be used to teach community members home gardening, cooking and more.
The City held a ribbon cutting at the site June 9 and an official grand opening took place on June 26. Muralist Jean Bradbury is set to cover the west wall of the building with art starting in early July.
It is exciting to see all of this energy at the heart of our community, where creativity and entrepreneurship are harnessed toward a brighter and more sustainable future.