The Wednesday Afternoon Farmers Market started this week for their fifth season of connecting community members to local foods midweek and is bringing up the conversation about sustainable packaging.
O’Hara Commons Director Samantha O’Byrne said the market continues to be committed to local.
“Collectively, we are supporting the local economy, preserving treasured farmlands and celebrating natural resources that feed us, our neighbors and the creatures that make our food system possible,” O’Byrne said. “Between our two mid-week markets (online and in-person), O’Hara is able to help make local foods accessible year-round.”
She said that time of the year local growers are “in the trenches.”
“They are working an absurd number of hours right now to supply food for us in the months ahead,” she said. “This spring has been challenging for growers, both cold and dry. With the recent rains, soon will be a flood of produce and the promise of a really fantastic season for local food.”
On Wednesday in the sunny 95-degree day, the lawn had local food growers and producers selling vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs, honey, meats, herbals, plants, jams, syrups and ferments.
Vendors for the summer include Aspen Grove Farm, known for their berries, jams, syrups and vegetables; Bee Happy Farm, a small honey business producing raw wildflower honey; Blue Coyote Farms with herbs, vegetables and flowers; Ellen & Ian with lettuce, mustards, collards, kale, tomatoes, herbs, squash, melons, strawberries, raspberries and more; and Fern Co. with vegetables and education about improving soil health and fertility.
Vendors also included House of Ferments with a full array of fermented foods including kombucha, krauts and kimchi made with local produce; Peace Gardens with fruits, vegetables and herbs; Tucker Family Farm with quality sheep’s milk cheeses; Verdure Pastures with food, cut flowers and specialty meats; and Yourganic Farm with remarkable fresh food.
“This year we have the greatest number of vendors with a full array of local food offerings,” O’Byrne said. “We take SNAP, Double SNAP and senior coupons.”
Haley Weber, 12, in sixth grade, is in her second year at the Wednesday Market and makes items for sale with her Cricut crafting tool. She designs and makes flowers, T-shirts, coffee cups, hot pads, aprons, greeting cards and hair scrunchies using her skills as a craftsman, sewer and quilter.
“I like crafting,” Weber said. “With my earnings, I buy more crafts and I enjoy talking with people.”
Light turquoise is her favorite color but she doesn’t limit her pallet. Her inventive, colorful items are quality-made and for sale each week of the market this summer.
Every other week at the Wednesday Afternoon Farmers Market will be Two Poppies Apothecary with handmade skincare, herbal and vibrational remedies, native plant goods and whole-body wellness; as will Montana Botanicals.
Hillery Daily, a retired acupuncturist, set up her booth Montana Botanicals.
“When I was in business I had a medicinal herbal, tincture, liniment business which I used with my patients and it was also open to the public,” she said. “I am still a bit in business and am selling former inventory and coming up with new formulas.”
Her new formula this summer is called “Wildfire Smoke” to help lungs.
“It is for when, inevitably, we get some smoke around here,” Daily said. “We will probably all need something. These herbs can help lungs.”
Daily is a member of Bitterroot Climate Action Group who has invested in sustainable packaging, starting with O’Hara’s Wednesday Afternoon Farmers Market.
“I proposed to Sam a zero-waste farmers market and it falls in with climate reducing plastic, reducing landfill and methane,” Daily said. “As an organization, we are partnering with her with financial support for supplies to keep this going.”
O’Byrne said she doesn’t call it “zero-waste” because the conversation is just starting.
“We need to embrace the language of ‘transitioning to sustainable packaging,’” O’Byrne said. “This season I’ll be posing little queries and getting people to think about the issue.”
The market is also offering bags designed to reduce, reuse and recycle. The market is going to be able to give away extra synthetic bags donated through the Montana Aware Programs.
“Hopefully, our customers will reuse,” O’Byrne said. “We are also giving away compostable bags but this is part of the narrative.”
O’Byrne searched for and special ordered bags but what arrived was not what she wanted.
“But, rather than returning it, I decided to let it be part of the narrative,” she said. “We can ask all the questions and think we are doing the right thing, but all of a sudden it tunes into a learning experience.”
The bags are labeled “industrial” compostable when she wanted “home” compostable.
“It is part of the conversation of transitioning to sustainable packaging in our food systems,” O’Byrne said. “We are all trying to improve. In this transition, we can’t just put it on our vendors to come up with solutions for us.”
The challenge is that customers want clear bags so they can see their produce but almost all compostable bags are opaque and may not keep foods as fresh for the same amount of time.
“It’s a sales issue for vendors,” O’Byrne said. “Vendors want to use sustainable packaging but they know consumers are not yet conditioned to accept them.”
Her posted thoughts for Wednesday about ‘transitioning to sustainable packaging included suggestions for consumers to carry reusable shopping bags, drink from reusable cups/bottles, abandon plastic straws, and reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse anything unneeded.
The Wednesday Market also had room for the nonprofit Corvallis Schools Foundation with information about supporting Outdoor Science Education programs at the school. For more information visit https://www.csfmontana.com.