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Vendor Profile: Olympia Provisions

Sarah West

By Sarah West

Olympia Provisions (formerly, Olympic Provisions) needs no introduction. Their cured salamis rose to national acclaim—by the likes of Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Oprah magazines—just a few brisk years after chef Elias Cairo began producing them in November of 2009. Opening a restaurant of the same name in southeast Portland with a team of chef-restaurateur partners, Elias was not alone in creating Olympia Provisions’ success, but he was the man behind the plan for the restaurant’s ambitious meat-curing facility, the first of its kind in Oregon to be USDA-certified.

Influenced by a five-year chef apprenticeship in Switzerland, Cairo experienced firsthand the meticulous process behind some of Europe’s famous cured meats. Raised by a first-generation Greek father who butchered his own animals and brought salami along on every family outing, Cairo was predisposed to appreciate good cured meat. And when the opportunity to partner on a new restaurant project came his way, he was game for trying to recreate some of the nuanced flavors he experienced abroad.

From the beginning, Cairo has insisted that virtuous salami can only be made by hands, not machines, and must be cold-fermented under a bloom of white mold that not only preserves the meat, but lends it an inimitable umami-tang. When he and his restaurant partners designed the original curing facility, they could not have foreseen the two major expansions that would follow in the next four years, scaling up their meat processing facility from 800 square feet to 40,000. While these expansions forced Olympia Provisions to move away from the small-batch artisanal production (done exclusively by Cairo himself) they had originally envisioned, they have maintained a strong focus on hand-production.

Machines now mix the 4,500 pounds of pork they process each day in 150-pound “small” batches which are blended with spices and hand-peeled garlic to order then stuffed into a natural hog casing and tied by a team of four dexterous salumieris. In addition to their charcuterie line of 12 salami flavors, capicola, and mortadella, a given week finds them smoking some combination of their famed frankfurters, kielbasa, chorizo, sweetheart ham, and bacon, as well as mixing and stuffing their fresh chorizo, bratwurst, Italian sausage, rillete, pate, and mousse. Ever the innovators, this summer the OP team is launching a new product. Invited by Martha Stewart and Triscuit to collaborate on a classic summer sausage, their take on the iconic American picnic sausage includes a mellow blend of garlic, chili powder, and mustard seeds. They’ve also launched a line of pickled vegetables based on combinations they’ve been serving for years at their two Portland restaurants.

While the inspiration for their line of Old World influenced American charcuterie was always rooted in their restaurants, farmers markets played a key role in promoting the salamis to a wider audience. Their 2009 booth at the Portland OHSU market allowed them to learn what flavors people most responded to and gave them an opportunity to educate potential customers about their continually expanding product line via samples and conversation.

“We really value market culture,” says Olympia Provisions’ market manager, Kendra Nelson, “because it gives us a chance to meet our customers face-to-face, and we get to see their reaction when they taste that perfect piece of salami.”

Over the years, OP has expanded to include fifteen Portland-area farmers markets at last count, joining Hillsdale in 2010.

Olympia Provisions sells at Hillsdale Farmers Market year-round, offering a selection of their cured salamis, sausages, and smoked meats. Nelson suggests that market shoppers get to her booth before noon, as, “All the best things (including our summer sausage and kielbasa) sell out early!”

As for what to do with that perfect piece of salami, the possibilities are endless, but Nelson highly recommends this Hillsdale-Market-inspired combination:
“One of my favorite market snacks is an open-face sandwich with Fraga Farm chevre, thin slices of our finocchiona (our Italian salami with fennel), thick slabs of the prettiest and most colorful tomatoes I can find, olive oil, and Jacobsen sea salt.” How about putting that on a slice of wood-fired ciabatta from Tastebud for bonus points?

Learn more about the Olympia Provisions line of artisanal meats, visit their shop (and send a piece of Portland food culture to distant friends and family), and peruse their restaurants’ menus at olympiaprovisions.com.

Vendor Spotlight: Meadow Harvest

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

They say that stress, and the chemical manifestations it unleashes throughout the body, can ruin a good piece of meat. Several contemporary studies (and generations of small-scale herding traditions around the world) offer compelling evidence supporting this simple and palatable equation: animals raised in an environment that allows them to live calm and comfortable lives, and who are slaughtered in a way that minimizes fear and anxiety, will taste better.

“Trust reduces adrenalin for us all,” reads a paragraph on the Meadow Harvest website, wherein they explain that a key component of their animal handling practices is simply to spend time together, familiarizing the animals with their voices, their presence among the herd, and expressing—there’s no other word for it—their love.

Walking around the farm with Sage and Brian, the proprietors, proud parents, and caretakers of Meadow Harvest’s cows and sheep, their fondness for the animals, and for their work as small-scale ranchers, is obvious.

“Hi cows. Hi weirdos. Hey you.” Brian affectionately coos to the cows as we walk toward where the herd has gathered in the cool shade of their large barn.

Until 2006, the couple used their 60-acre parcel, just inland from the coastal town of Nehalem, to manage a dairy herd. Selling their milk exclusively to Tillamook (whose drivers would collect the daily milkings), along with the demanding schedule of a dairy, kept them busy and somewhat secluded on their tranquil farm, with cows, sheep, farm dogs, and the sea breeze to keep them company. When the couple decided to retire from dairy farming, they couldn’t imagine their land without ruminants; so instead of quitting the farm altogether, they downsized into pastured meat production.

As Brian walks to the barn’s feeding area to entice the cows toward us with some hay, he trips on a concrete block and takes a controlled tumble onto the barn floor. I ask if he’s okay and instinctively move to help him, but before I can get close he bounces back up and says with a laugh, “It’s part of the job!”

Brian, a lifelong dairy farmer, is also legally blind. His blindness isn’t complete—as a youth he could see well enough to play basketball, a sport about which he remains passionate—though his condition, a genetic disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, has progressed over time, whittling his vision down to very little. He moves around the farm—with the occasional assist from Sage—without difficulty, and is the primary caretaker of their herd. Sage, he notes, is now in semi-retirement.

And he didn’t learn to be a blind farmer as a fully blind man, which, along with years of experience, explains his ease and familiarity with what may seem to an outsider as dangerous work for a person with vision impairment.

“I could see well enough when I started [dairy farming],” Brian explains, “that I think I just adjusted slowly to the increments of vision loss. And we had the tamest cows in Tillamook County. That helped!”

Sitting on a gentle slope, the farm’s pasture eases toward the lush, tree-lined banks of the North Fork Nehalem River, the other side of which is forestland and undulating Coast Range hills. You can’t see or hear the ocean, pulsing only a few miles west as the crow flies, and their narrow valley is somewhat buffered from the Pacific’s cooling influence, but even on a hot day the shade is pleasant and the occasional gust carries a hint of brine.

Brian began working as a dairyman on the Oregon coast at the age of 22, taking over a project his father had started on a whim, and learning through trial and error a set of skills that were completely new to him. Raised in L.A. and schooled on the east coast, Brian was not from diary farming lineage, though as a child his family had vacationed on the Oregon coast and he was familiar with the Nehalem area.

“I just jumped right in,” Brian recalls. “And you learn fast because if you don’t do all the work that needs to get done, no one else is going to.”

Brian also picked up bits and piece from neighbors and his long-time veterinarian, Pete Miller, who was always willing to talk cows and taught Brian much about their temperament, nutritional needs, and general care.

Sage came to sheep farming as a fiber artist completing an MFA at Montana State University in Bozeman. A spinner interested in raising her own wool stock, Sage, with the help of her sister, began farming sheep in Washington State not long before she reconnected with Brian.

The two met by chance as young children, when their families hit it off on a camping trip in the Trinity Alps. When they met again as adults, they formed what has proven to be a lasting partnership. Brian’s dairy farm has hosted roaming sheep ever since, and Sage’s sheep herd hasn’t missed a shearing without the curious gaze of cows. With the transition to meat production, the couple found that farmers markets were the most accessible venue for selling their product, and instantly enjoyed their social atmosphere.

When I ask if selling at the market has changed anything about their experience as farmers, Sage offers,  “At the market, you can connect with the people who benefit from your hard work, as opposed to working with Tillamook, where your milk is taken away in a steel tank and never heard from again.”

Brian eagerly chimes in that, yes, “The camaraderie at the market is wonderful.”

Not surprisingly, the inventory of Meadow Harvest’s market offerings reflects Sage and Brian’s parallel interests. Dairy cows have been replaced with Murray Grey beef cattle, an Australian breed known for its gentle demeanor and fine flavor. Sage’s original sheep herd—mostly consisting of a breed called Targhee (of Idaho provenance and known for high quality wool)—has expanded to include, and interbreed with, Texel, a sheep that hails from the northwestern coast of Europe and is prized for quick-growing lambs and delicious meat.

Choosing breeds that fit the character of their farm, and raising them with integrity, helps Brian and Sage produce the best possible product. They keep the herds small and rotate them among thirteen sweet clover and grass pastures, providing as much of their nutrition from fresh forage as possible. They breed and raise their own calves and lambs, selecting for desirable traits. They have even begun to dabble in some of the latest research tracking genetic traits associated with marbling and tenderness, and have confirmed through testing that their bull, Ulysses, carries all of the known predictors for tenderness. And along with everything else, their animals get lots of ear scratches and hellos and love. You can taste that, too.

Find out more about Meadow Harvests practices, breeds, and products at www.meadowharvest.com.

Meadow Harvest is now offering farm stays! Play at the beach and sleep on the farm. See their listing here.

Vendor Spotlight: Baird Family Orchards

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

When it comes down to it, Trevor Baird is, unsurprisingly, a fruit geek. Traipsing around his family’s Dayton area orchard on a hot early June afternoon, his enthusiasm is palpable as he introduces us to his trees. Among the popular sellers like Honeycrisp apples and Suncrest peaches are many varieties you and I have probably never heard of.

“I’m an experimenter,” Trevor declares, a statement that encompasses both his business strategy as the successor, along with his sister, Jennifer, of his parents’ orchard, and his personal fascination with the fruit growing profession.

He stops in front of an apple tree called Firecracker with dark red fruits hung along its drooping branches like, well, firecrackers. When mature, the petite apples have pure crimson flesh and a tart bite that Trevor sells to chefs looking for something striking to put on their plates. There’s Goldrush, a yellow-skinned apple with remarkable disease resistance and dense, tangy flesh that ages well in storage. There’s Harken, a peach whose fruits are still fuzzy green marbles, that’s Trevor’s favorite for its quintessentially peachy flavor. And then there are the pluots, a super-tasty hybrid of plums and apricots whose trees are known for taking a long time to settle in and which have yet, in Trevor Baird’s orchard at least, to produce more than a handful of fruits.

Farming is tricky business, requiring the financial deftness necessary to navigate market fluctuations and evolving consumer tastes, all while taming the wild horse that is your chosen field: its weeds and weather, its abundance and shortages, its relentless demands on your energy and time. Nowhere is this more apparent than in an orchard, where the terms are dictated by a tree’s timeline, not a human’s.

Freshly planted fruit trees must be irrigated, fertilized, protected from pests and pathogens, and weeded for 3-5 years before they begin to produce a significant yield. And yields, even on healthy, mature trees, will vary from year to year due to fluctuations in pollination rates and simply how the spring weather played out. If it gets too warm too early, a tree may bloom prematurely, only to have its tender flowers blasted by frost a few days later.

“This year,” Trevor explained, “the mild winter didn’t provide enough chill hours for the Honeycrisp to set much fruit.”

All fruit trees, notably apples, wait to initiate their spring bloom until they’ve registered a prescribed number of hours (the exact number varies by variety) at around 45-degrees Fahrenheit. But what’s bad for one crop is good for another, which is why diversity is the name of the game at Baird Family Orchards. To survive poor yields and shifting consumer tastes, you need to have made decisions three years ago that meet today’s needs. The best way to do that is to give yourself a lot of options.


Purchased in 1984 by Trevor’s parents, Don and Kathy, the 40-acre parcel that now hosts dozens of stone and pome fruit varieties came planted in standard cherries—enormous trees whose upper branches were too difficult to harvest. The Bairds soon removed them, putting apples and a few Suncrest and Flamecrest peaches in their place. As was the case for many small apple orchards of the time, the Alar (a chemical growth regulator and suspected carcinogen) scare of the late 1980’s drove wholesale apple prices so low it no longer made sense to harvest their trees, challenging the Bairds to reconsider their plantings yet again.

It was around this time that Don Baird and his son Trevor had begun selling fruit directly to consumers at some of the area’s first farmers markets in Gresham and Beaverton. The peaches they’d planted on a whim turned out to be a big hit with market customers, inspiring the Bairds to transition their orchard to include more stone fruits—peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums—while keeping some of their best apple varieties.

As we move through the orchard, Trevor noting when he expects this or that to show up at market, it becomes clear that each variety has a specific, and often short, harvest window. Because they sell at so many markets in the Portland area (around fifteen at last count), and since most varieties are planted in modest quantities, not all varieties make it to every market. As Trevor admits with a chuckle, this level of diversification would be madness on a wholesale farm, but it lends much needed flexibility to their farmers-market-oriented harvest schedule, and appealing novelty to their offerings. No two weeks at Baird’s stand taste the same.

If diversity is Baird’s survival strategy, flavor is their most compelling selling point. Their fruits are known for impressive sweetness and the way they all seem to taste like the best version of themselves. This is not an accident. Don, Trevor, and a dedicated team of farmhands, take great care to cultivate optimum flavor through variety selection, smart horticultural management, and by allowing their fruit to ripen on the tree.

The same standard of quality applies to Baird’s leased orchard, operated by Dan and Ron Gunkel, who continue to farm land their father established in Goldendale, Washington in 1936. Don Baird struck up a partnership with the Gunkels twenty years ago that resulted in a block of the Gunkel orchard dedicated to growing fruit just for the Bairds.

The Gunkel block allows the Bairds room to expand the supply of some of their more popular varieties. When something from the Dayton orchard—where Trevor and Don have the freedom to trial new varieties for performance, flavor, and customer popularity—does particularly well, they plant it on the Gunkel’s property in numbers large enough to keep the market booth stocked for more than a couple of weeks. Like the Bairds, the Gunkels harvest all of their trees by hand, selecting only the ripest fruit, and packing it with care to preserve its delicate texture.

“It’s a perfect partnership,” Trevor tells me. “We all work really well together, which is why the fruit tastes so good.”

The last thing Trevor shows us a row of top-grafts put in this spring. Top-grafting is a shortcut of sorts, where part of a mature tree is lopped off and branches (called scions) from a different variety are wedged into the host tree’s cambium. The host tree has more energy reserves than does a newly planted tree, resulting in larger harvests after a shorter wait period. They strike me as a fitting metaphor for Trevor and Jennifer Baird: the next generation growing from the challenges and momentum of its predecessor with the enthusiasm of a fresh start.

Vendor Profile: Obon

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Since moving to Portland in March of 2014, Fumiko Hozumi and Jason Duffany have made quick work of finding a unique voice in Portland’s crowded food industry. The couple met in San Fransisco, where Fumiko rolled sushi at a Castro District restaurant by night while completing a vet tech certification program by day, and Jason transitioned from computer engineering to cooking when he was hired to serve as the kitchen manager and chef for the deli of a small organic grocery store in Sausalito. Tiring of the Bay Area’s rising cost of living and increasing urban density, Jason and Fumiko began looking elsewhere for a place to settle down and try their hand at food entrepreneurship. After a brief scouting trip in early 2014 to Portland’s southeast neighborhoods, they were charmed by the city’s decentralized restaurant scene.

“Our brief stay led us to discover that downtown didn't fully represent this city,” Jason explained. “By late March we had moved into a small mother-in-law unit on the east face of Mt Tabor. Shortly afterward we founded Obon and signed a lease for a commercial kitchen.”

Menu Item #1: Kenchinjiru – A hearty stew with a ginger-flavored miso broth, seasonal root vegetables, mushrooms, and non-gmo tofu. This warming soup was a signature winter dish in Fumiko’s childhood home

Right from the start, they noticed a lack of vegan Japanese food in Portland and designed their business model to serve that niche market. Taking cues from traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine, Obon’s plant-based menu aims for authentic and healthful food that satisfies the adventurous tastes of eaters in a vibrant food city. At the recommendation of a friend, the couple purchased some basic equipment and applied to farmers markets. Billing Obon as a mobile food business and catering company with brick-and-mortar aspirations, they used the markets as an opportunity to practice ramping up their production capacity and introducing their unique products to a customer base already enthusiastic about fresh vegetables.

A Japanese native, Fumiko’s repertoire forms the foundation of Obon’s menu. Her recipes draw on a collection of flavors and techniques gleaned from childhood memories and dishes she and Jason discovered on visits to Japan. Tweaked and influenced by the seasonal availability of ingredients and Jason’s zest for exploring unconventional flavor combinations, Obon’s food is a playful blend of old and new.

Menu Item #2: Giant Tater Tots – Organic russet potatoes are mashed with seasonal vegetables and coated in Tabor Bread panko, fried in palm oil, and served with house-made carrot ketchup.

They gave Obon the tagline, “Feel good Japanese comfort food,” a phrase Jason describes as summing up what he and Fumiko appreciate about the plant-based Japanese cuisine their menu emulates.

“For us, Japanese comfort food has always been easier to digest [than its Western counterparts] & never leaves us feeling heavy or sick no matter how much we stuff our faces—which we often do.”

Menu Item #3: Karokke – This traditional fritter made of sweet potato or winter squash, organic raisins, and Japanese curry blend is a snack Fumiko fondly recalls purchasing as a child on her way home from school. Coated in Tabor Bread panko and fried in palm oil, Obon serves their karokke drizzled with tangy house-made Tamarind sauce.


Instead of relying on animal fats and dairy to flavor and enrich their dishes, Jason and Fumiko employ technique and the highest-quality ingredients they can source. Making connections with other farmers market vendors has been an unexpected but integral part of this process. Standing with them at their People’s Co-op Farmers Market stall on an early April Wednesday, Fumiko pointed across to the Tabor Bread booth and explained that they make all of the panko (breadcrumbs) for their tater tots and karokke from Tabor Bread loaves, a southeast Portland bakery known for its use of locally grown wheat and fermented wild yeast leavens.

“It was a game changer,” Jason added. “The flavor of those two items just got so much better.”

Another trick up their sleeve is tofu misozuke, a product they first tried at a restaurant in Onomichi, a small seaside town in Hiroshima Prefecture.

“We had it served on cucumber slices with micro-greens at an izakaya bar where we were sipping local sake. Due to its creaminess, we assumed it was a cheese product, but were corrected by one of the cooks working the front of the restaurant: It was fermented tofu, aged in miso for at least two weeks.”

Menu Item #4: Sprouted Brown Rice Onigiri – For this gluten-free treat, sprouted brown rice is blended with Japanese-style pickled organic vegetables, and filled with Obon’s signature tofu misozuke before being shaped and nestled into an organic nori wrapper. Onigiri are a classic Japanese lunch box staple, and a vehicle for each cook to showcase her own unique style.

Tofu misozuke is surprisingly creamy and smooth, with a mild, nutty flavor lent from the miso it ferments in and a brie-like richness that fills your mouth as fully as triple-cream cheese. After returning from their trip, Fumiko and Jason were determined to create their own.

"We found out about Rau Om, a company started by a couple in the Bay Area who had become just as intrigued as we had after their first taste of misozuke. When they stopped producing it commercially they posted their recipe online. We've combined some of their techniques with what we found in The Book of Miso, plus what we learned initially in Onomichi,” Jason told me, adding: “We eat it almost daily as a condiment for just about anything. At farmers markets, we serve it smoked inside our sprouted brown rice onigiri.”

Obon produces small batches of misozuke packaged for retail that are available for purchase at People’s Food Co-op and Food Front’s NW Thurman Street location. As its popularity grows, they hope to expand the product line with flavored misozuke spreads.

With their sharp curiosity and dedication to authentic Japanese preparations, Obon has already developed five recipes that stretch well beyond the sushi- and ramen-dominated boxes we’ve come to expect of Japanese food in the US. More than just vegan or health food, faithful to but not restricted by tradition, Obon’s first success has been to create Obon food, a menu as undeniably their own as it is uniquely alluring.

You’ll be able to sample Obon’s meticulously crafted delicacies every Sunday at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Stay up to date with new menu items, products, and events (including a summer 2015 farm dinner hosted by HFM’s Naked Acres Farm) by visiting www.obonpdx.com and their Facebook page (link).

This article contains several corrections to the original piece published in the email version of the Grapevine sent on April 9, 2015.

Vendor Profile: Kookoolan Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Hillsdale vendor since 2007, Kookoolan Farms has quickly built a name as the place to go for pasture-raised chickens and eggs in the Portland area. That same year, the farm was the first in Oregon to open a fully licensed on-site poultry slaughtering facility, allowing more vertical integration in an industry with notoriously low profit margins. Kookoolan has since expanded their product line to include pastured pork and lamb, grassfed beef, a vegetable CSA, and a year-round farm store. Oh, and for bonus points, they set up a kombucha and mead brewery, most recently opening their Mead Superstore and Tasting Room.

Just taking in all that is Kookoolan Farms requires a few deep breaths. The dynamic duo behind Kookoolan Farms, Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor, met while working as program managers at Intel (Koorosh still works there). The couple married and began dreaming a world outside of Intel where they could work together on a project that integrated their engineering skills with more personal interests: Chrissie was an avid gardener and cook with a passion for home mead making, Koorosh still harbored dreams of becoming a farmer he’d hatched as a child in Iran helping out with his parents’ poultry flock.

While Chrissie’s first entrepreneurial aspiration was to open a meadery, the couple also saw a need for local, pasture-raised chicken and eggs in the area, and set to work building a farm to fill that niche. The road was not without pitfalls or unexpected turns, but, within two years of founding the farm, the persistent couple was able to accomplish something out of reach to most small-scale chicken farmers since the rise of industrial agriculture: the ability to legally process their own flock on their own farm for sale to farmers market customers, restaurants, and grocery stores alike.

This may seem like an obvious direction for a poultry farm to grow, but the reality of achieving it was far more difficult than the Zaerpoors initially realized. Though regulations have changed somewhat since Kookoolan’s 2005 startup (especially for farmers with fewer than a thousand birds), the USDA has strict codes that make it prohibitively expensive for small producers to operate their own slaughter facility. Kookoolan persevered and became the first farm of their size in Oregon to accomplish this feat. As their processing ability increased, they realized that the five-acre plot they purchased in 2005 would not be sufficient to produce the flock sizes required to build a sustainable business.

The Zaerpoors began to see their Carlton-Yamhill neighbors as potential partners, carefully selecting farms in their area willing to adhere to the same meticulous standards as they did in raising their chickens. With careful planning, Kookoolan Farms became a cooperative of ethical meat and poultry farmers, greatly expanding their product line, and distributing the labor to a network of specialists. Chrissie remains the hub of operations, coordinating the farm’s wholesale distribution, farmers market sales, and, of course, quality control. The cooperative model finally freed up some of the Zaerpoor’s time, allowing them to expand their vegetable garden into a summer CSA program and giving Chrissie time to get back into mead.

The original Kookoolan Farm site still houses a portion of the farm’s pastured chickens, their poultry processing facility, a serve-yourself farm store, the vegetable rows, a small plot of pinot noir grapes, and the new Mead Superstore.Visitors are welcome on weekends (or during the week, by appointment) to browse their selection of over 150 different meads and taste Kookoolan’s own farm-made Elegance Mead, kombucha, and Vin de Noix. What about those pinot noir grapes? Well, they may just show up in the Kookoolan lineup soon in the form of a pinot-mead blend known as pyment.

Though Kookoolan has been selling their chickens through New Seasons for a couple years, they recently decided to pull out of the arrangement. In the context of a grocery store meat counter (even a grocery store with a reputation for higher-income shoppers), local, pasture-raised chickens separated from their farmer’s story, sitting next to temptingly cheaper alternatives, are a tough sell. New Seasons requested birds under four pounds, but Kookoolan can’t make a profit raising such small chickens. They’ve decided to stick with direct-market sales here at Hillsdale and (on alternate Sundays) the Hillsboro/Orenco market. That’s a testament to the power of farmers market shoppers, who make a significant contribution to the viability of even the most outwardly successful small farm businesses.

Find out more at: www.kookoolanfarms.com

Note: A fire broke out on Kookoolan Farms on the evening of March 18th. Two outbuildings were lost in the fire. Read about the fire here (link).

Vendor Profile-Unger Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Strawberry season doesn’t hit fever-pitch at the market until Unger Farms returns with their flats of perfect Hood strawberries, those ephemeral poster children synonymous with June, Oregon, and delicious. Long lines of shoppers wait for the opening bell to ring, eager to take a half-flat home to freeze, can, or simply snack on this early summer treat.

By August, summer in Oregon has settled into fields of golden-hued grass, hazy skies, and copious dust. The Hoods are hunkered down in the heat, waiting for a fall mowing and their lush return with winter’s rain. Albion, a workhorse strawberry with sweetness and a touch of acidity—if not the Hood’s grand perfume—has taken the Hood’s place and will bear through October if the weather holds. August at Unger Farms is ruled by raspberries and blackberries, of which they grow ten varieties.

Matt and Kathy Unger bought the 140-acre farm a little over 30 years ago, continuing an Unger family tradition: Matt grew up farming strawberries on his family’s land, just over the hill from their farm, and Kathy worked on her future in-law’s farm after moving to the area from north Portland while still in high school. The two struck off on their own venture in 1984, growing berries and cucumbers, and selling their harvests to local canneries.

They soon realized that cannery prices were not able to keep the farm afloat, despite how efficiently they ran their operation. In the late 80’s, they decided to try opening a booth at the Hillsboro Farmers Market and the farm has never been the same since. Over two decades, they grew their fresh market business to comprise over 80% of farm income, reviving a tenuous young farm and becoming a cornerstone vendor of many Portland area markets.

The Ungers specialize in berries, and have maintained a focused operation, always striving to produce the best product they can, carefully selecting varieties with good flavor and size, and utilizing sustainable farming practices to minimize their operation’s impact on their land and surrounding environment. Their careful farming is evident in the tidy, well-managed berry and grape rows rotated among the farm to keep soil pathogens from building in any one spot, to the flats of plump, shining berries picked each morning and cooled in the farm’s storage cooler for markets and deliveries the next day.

This year, Unger Farms is selling at fifteen area markets, a handful of farm stands, and New Seasons grocery stores, as well as their own fledgling farm store located on an annexed property purchased after a neighboring nursery operation left. They built the farm store four years ago with public interaction in mind, including nearby U-pick fields of flowers and berries, a café and bakery with patio seating that looks over the farm’s pond and distant berry fields, and impressive displays of fresh vegetables, berries, and other local food products. This year, the farm store added an OLCC license, allowing them to sell beer and wine, and launch a new series of wine, beer and music events on select evenings through the summer.

The Ungers have recently added a CSA component to their farm model as well, growing a couple acres of vegetables along with the berries for families wanting a weekly box of farm-fresh vegetables and fruits. This year, Matt enthusiastically planted 18 varieties of potatoes, a crop he also grew up tending, and the store will feature these plus a host of fall vegetables and berries until they shut down for winter. Start a weekend drive through the country with a waffle breakfast from the farm’s Berry Café, or come for a Savor the Summer evening event and sip wine on the patio with views of rolling farmland and live music. Find the farm store hours and more at: http://ungerfarms.com.

Vendor Profile: Salvador Molly’s

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

tamaleBefore the phrase “food cart pod” was in existence, restaurants had to incubate themselves by renting a brick-and-mortar space right off the bat, or by repeatedly selling out of a popular dish at the farmers’ market. Such is the story of Salvador Molly’s, which began in 1994 as a tamale cart at the downtown Portland Farmers Market.

Scott Moritz, the tamales’ creator and proprietor, soon hit it off with one of his regular customers, Rick Sadle. As the two became friends, they began imagining how to expand the Saturday tamale operation into a full-time project. In 1996, with Scott’s tamale recipe as the main attraction, Rick helped open a café they called Salvador Molly’s.

The menu (and décor) quickly became eclectic, incorporating flavors and motifs from spicy, tropical cuisines. Their notorious Great Balls of Fire appetizer brings in challenge-seekers (and the occasional television crew) to brave habanero infused fritters and earn a place on the Hall of Flame. Spicy standoffs aside, the menu’s bold flavors and sun-drenched associations hit a chord with Portland diners that continues to attract new and long-time customers alike.

Throughout the last eighteen years of growing and developing a restaurant business, Rick and his daughter, Darielle (who became manager and part-owner seven years ago), have stayed true to their business’s farmers’ market roots. Hillsdale and Portland Farmers’ Market shoppers know their cheery booth, and the smell of their steam-bathed tamales, well. The tamales (and menu items at the restaurant) often incorporate ingredients purchased from Hillsdale vendors.

The Sadle’s commitment to farmers’ markets is further reflected in their community ethos. Each month, the restaurant hosts fundraisers for local schools and non-Profit organizations. Scott and Rick chose Hillsdale as the location of their restaurant for its close-knit neighborhood appeal, and Salvador Molly’s continues to be a gathering place for friends and family as a favorite Hillsdale eatery.

Roadhouse SignThis month, Salvador Molly’s expands again with the opening of their new Roadhouse and Tiki Garden in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The new space will be much like the old, with tropical-themed murals and decorations, Great Balls of Fire, a lighthearted and family-friendly atmosphere, as well as an outdoor patio. (Fire pit and water feature coming soon!)

The menu at the Roadhouse will remain similar to their Hillsdale location, focusing on food from places where palm trees grow, with some new items including: Thai fish cakes with mango red onion salsa, house-made bread and sausages, and Korean chap chee. During lunch, their drive-up window will be open for take-away sandwiches and house-made sausages.

We snapped a few shots before they opened last week. Stop in soon to watch the space evolve, try new menu items or enjoy the secluded patio. Find the Salvador Molly’s Roadhouse and Tiki Garden at 4729 SE Milwaukie Ave in Southeast Portland. They are open from 3pm until late Tuesday thru Saturday. Learn more at www.salvadormollys.com.

Gales Meadow Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Gales Meadow FarmNestled between wooded hillside and a bend in the meandering Gales Creek, Anne and Rene’ Berblinger’s Gales Meadow Farm feels like a place hewn from the pastoral imagination: nine smooth acres fan out in a rough triangle from the back of the property, bordered cozily by tall trees, onto a vista of the slender Gales Creek valley and its well-muscled foothills that begin galloping into the coast range a handful of miles west of the farm. It is a vista I know well from spending two summers as a part-time farmhand there in 2010 and 2011, enjoying a morning coffee, planting, harvesting and pulling weeds in that glorious backdrop.

Anne and Rene’ began hobby-farming the site in 1999, coming from non-farm careers and a simple desire to work outdoors and grow beautiful food. Their operation soon expanded to include one, then many employees, some who live on-site, most of whom are young people interested in learning more about organic vegetable production. The farm earned organic certification from Oregon Tilth in 2001, and has remained strictly organic since then. They sell summer vegetables at the Hollywood and Cannon Beach farmers’ markets, and spring plant starts here at Hillsdale.

Their plant list boasts an astonishing 300 varieties, an accomplished collection for a farm of this scope. And Gales Meadow is all about collections: tomato varieties number in the forties, pepper and garlic varieties in the twenties, many of which are perpetuated using seed collected onsite. This is a boon both for the farm and the home gardeners who purchase vegetable starts from GMF, as the plants are well adapted to the climatic and soil conditions of our region.
“Sometimes I say that we had to be farmers, since we never had room to grow all the varieties we wanted to try in a garden,” Anne said of her transition from gardener to farmer fifteen years ago.

A quick look at their tomato variety list makes it clear that the Berblingers do not perpetuate the usual suspects. A healthy handful of the varieties they grow are sourced not from seed catalogs but from fellow farmers and customers who pass on their own favorites. The result is a gallery of unique tomatoes, well-tested in both garden and kitchen, many of which are exclusive to Gales Meadow Farm.

Nostrano, a round, red variety that comes from the seeds of a tomato purchased at a market in Turino, Italy are Anne’s favorite slicing tomato for summer sandwiches or just eating out of hand. Italian Heart, a creamy-pink beauty of a sauce tomato with large-shouldered fruits that taper to a point (reminiscent of a heart) quickly cook down to a light, aromatic sauce. Piccolo San Marzano, a miniature version of the classic Italian sauce tomato, makes an excellent portable snack, and is featured in homemade catsup at farm meals.

Gales Meadow Farm is one of this year’s Edible Portland Local Food Hero nominees, an honor they’ve received in part for their farming and nursery work, as well as their dedication to educating gardeners and young farmers about organic agriculture. Anne and Rene’ farm with a gardener’s mentality, valuing beauty, flavor and narrative over high productivity or vegetables with a long shelf life, and many of the lessons they’ve learned in their fifteen-year farm journey translate well to a garden of any size. Anne and Rene’ have reaped delicious rewards from experimenting with seed saving, and encourage all gardeners to try their hand at it.

“Use open-pollinated varieties and save seeds of your favorites,” Anne advises, “especially self-pollinating vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and beans.”

And, at the farm or garden scale, success with organic growing comes from seeing the garden as an ecosystem, a great balancing act.

“Love your pollinators,” encourages Anne, “provide ten months of bloom in your garden, a pesticide free environment, and places for their babies to grow.”

And as for those pesky weeds and tenacious pests, focus on management, “don’t even try to eliminate them.”

The relaxed and patient approach to agriculture I learned at Gales Meadow Farm still informs my own gardening practices, and many of the exceptional varieties I was introduced to there have earned a permanent place in my own seed collection. Hillsdale Farmers’ Market and the local food community are fortunate to have these local food heroes in our midst.

Gales Meadow Farm is only at Hillsdale through May, so don’t delay in choosing one of their alluring tomato or pepper varieties for your garden this year!