Cornelius hosts new farmers market
Cornelius residents who attend farmers markets in nearby Forest Grove and Hillsboro have been wanting a farmers market of their own for years.
That hope recently became a reality as the community of about 12,000 mostly Latino residents welcomed farmers, food vendors and craft-makers to the new Cornelius Farmers Market for the first time July 3.
Forest Grove-based nonprofit Adelante Mujeres runs the new Cornelius market, located in the parking lot behind the Cornelius Public Library. It is open every Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. through September. The nonprofit has been running the Forest Grove Farmers Market since 2005.
Since its first day, the market has implemented sanitation and social distancing measures to abide by coronavirus guidelines from health officials. Both vendors and customers are required to wear face coverings at all times at the market; there are controlled access points with hand sanitizer; and vendors restrict customers from touching items, among other guidelines.
Volunteers from Adelante are also monitoring health and safety practices throughout the market.
Maribel De Leon, director of microenterprise programs for Adelante, says the new market is a boon for farmers and other businesses that have been suffering from the economic impacts of the coronavirus.
"We are concerned about the health and safety of our communities," De Leon said. "The Latinx communities have been very impacted by this. But we're also concerned about the loss of income for the local microbusinesses and the access to food for low-income families."
Similarly to the Forest Grove market, the Cornelius market accepts welfare benefits including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Farm Direct Nutrition Progam and the Women, Infants and Children program.
The market is also running a new program to assist low-income people who can't attend the market because they're particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Staff at Adelante purchase food from vendors and deliver it to people's homes through the program, which receives financial support from the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.
De Leon said the market is also an important to support new, local entrepreneurs of color. Most vendors identify as Hispanic or Latino, and many are immigrants who have participated in Adelante's economic development programs.
With several people inspecting produce at her booth Friday, July 24, Margarita Reyes said she thinks people have been hesitant to come to the new market because of the coronavirus, but the number of customers has grown steadily every week.
Since the market opened, cases of COVID-19 have repeatedly broken records set early in the spring, and Cornelius has been a local hotspot for weeks.
Reyes worked on farms in the area for years after immigrating to the United States when she was 15. She started Reyes Family Produce in 2017 after graduating from Adelante's sustainable agriculture and farm business programs, in which participants take courses about how to farm using sustainable techniques and entrepreneurial skills. Adelante's staff helped her find a two-acre plot of land to rent in Hillsboro where she now grows her produce.
Reyes said in the first weeks of the pandemic, she considered not planting anything because she wasn't sure if food distributors would purchase her produce or if farmers markets would be able to open.
A co-worker at the nursery where she also works part of the year convinced her to plant, however, saying people will want to buy local during the pandemic.
Reyes said she noticed the nursery was throwing away starter plants. As a cost-saving and sustainability measure, she collected many of the plants to use herself.
So far, people have been particularly enthusiastic about her strawberries, Reyes said.
De Leon said the market's location outside the library, near public transit and local institutions such as Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Centro Cultural de Washington County, is important for a city trying to provide residents with outdoor gathering spaces. She praised the Cornelius city government and the market's other partners for working to make sure the market could open despite coronavirus concerns.
The market is starting to occupy a new role in the community during the pandemic as well, De Leon said. Adelante has received an increased number of calls for people wanting to set up booths at farmers markets for the first time, De Leon said.
She speculated the increase is a result of people looking to become entrepreneurs after losing a job during the pandemic.
"As an economic development professional, I'm seeing that a lot of persons are going to want to start some type of microbusiness as either a side hustle or as their main way of making an income," De Leon said.
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