Oregon City Farmers Market leader to retire this spring
Oregon City Farmers Market Manager Jackie Hammond-Williams plans to step down sometime in May and hand over management to her replacement.
Hammond-Williams helped start the market in 2005, managed it since 2008 and took it year-round in 2010. Since then, the market has received national acclaim for its programs to bring food to kids, while being an economic driver for the entire county. During 2018, shoppers spent approximately $1.2 million at the market in the 39 days it was open.
"The market is highly successful and fiscally and organizationally sound, so it's the right time to hand the reins over to someone who can keep it going in the right direction," Hammond-Williams said.
The nonprofit market has been recognized by city and county officials for showcasing local growers, farmers, ranchers, breweries and crafters. Oregon City Economic Development Coordinator Lori Bell said the farmers market serves as a "wonderful incubator" for local businesses to test the tastes of Clackamas County shoppers.
"The entrepreneurial support, led by market manager Jackie Hammond-Williams, creates an energy of collaboration that truly lifts our community," Bell said. "Over the years the OC Farmers Market helped local business grow from their homes to storefronts and develop partnerships with other retailers to sell their goods."
Bell nominated Hammond-Williams for an award last month from Clackamas County in recognition of the market's approximately 65,000 yearly customers and 80 vendors making a big impact on the local economy. Hammond-Williams said she was honored to be nominated for the award by the city of Oregon City's economic development office.
"Our market has won awards and national recognition, but the true joy is witnessing the interaction between the farmers, vendors and customers and seeing the importance more and more customers are giving to local food," she said.
Hammond-Williams has had a full-time job paid $40,000 annually for running the market, but she says she loved every minute of her role that has never seemed like "work." In addition to providing support for existing vendors, she expanded her job to soliciting small artisan food businesses.
"I have taught classes at both PCC and CCC to new aspiring farmers and artisan food vendors about selling at and getting the most from farmers markets, which are often the leg-up businesses need to get in front of customers and conduct market research," she said.
In past years, under Hammond-Williams' direction, the market has matched up to $5 per day for food-stamp cardholders, giving out an average over $8,000 in food annually to people who are low income. The SNAP Match program is now called Double Up Food Bucks, and starting this year, the market began offering a $10 match, thanks to new state of Oregon funding and donations from Providence Willamette Falls and Rotary Club Foundation of Oregon City.
Another program spearheaded by Hammond-Williams, the Power of Produce (POP) Club encourages kids who are between 5 and 12 to sign up for free to receive a reusable shopping bag and two $1 wooden tokens every time they come to the market to buy fresh produce and food plants. Recognizing the positive impacts of Oregon City programs, several farmers markets from across the U.S. and Canada have sought information from the Oregon City Farmers Market about launching their own POP Clubs.
POP Club member attendance is tracked by market staff stamping each kid's "Passport to Health. Approximately 1,500 kids sign up for Oregon City POP Club each year, getting between $13,000 and $14,000 in wooden tokens to spend at the market.
"Testimony from kids and parents tells us that it works and that more fresh produce is consumed in POP households," Hammond-Williams said. "This incentive introduces them to new vegetables and fruits, helps them to learn about the seasonality of local foods and gets them to know their farmer and understand where their food comes from."
A concept born out of a Clackamas County grant given to the Oregon City Farmers Market in 2011, POP Clubs are now being organized in markets across the U.S. and in Canada. Chipotle Corp just gave out $150,000 to farmers markets via the national Farmers Market Coalition to help start more POP Clubs.
Hammond-Williams expects a new manager will be selected by the market's board of directors by the end of January. The new manager will have the opportunity to work alongside her from March through to May, when she fully retires.
"I'm looking forward to taking more time to be with my grandchild and helping my husband expand our little plant nursery and cut flower farm — and travelling during the summer, something I've not done in 10 years," she said.
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