Gresham: More than a Farmers Market
It all started with a friendship between a rock collector and silversmith.
Heather Rieder's grandfather loved uncovering Oregon stones, a passion she shared as a 9-year-old growing up in the Boring area. Rieder would scour her backyard finding stones she would send through a tumbler to polish and smooth. She was drawn to the brilliant colors and intricate patterns.
She built up quite the collection, storing them in a box she kept with her through the years.
Rieder eventually would marry the son of the silversmith — Alan Stockam — a pairing that would prove to be a match made in jewelry-making heaven. About 7 years ago, the couple brought out Rieder's box of rocks, and decided to see what was inside.
The cut rocks yielded several colorful stones, suitable for pendants. Stockam followed in his father's footsteps, researching and teaching himself silversmithing techniques. The pair learned together and one of their first pieces was a ring to fit one of Rieder's stones.
"We found such a passion for it, we love rocks and making jewelry," Rieder said. "Now we are on this fun adventure together."
The couple now operates as Sandy River Jewelry, creating rings, pendants, cuffs, earrings, bolos and more. They will even turn a stone you find in your backyard into a personalized piece of jewelry.
And this adventure has led them to the Gresham Farmers Market, where they have been selling their pieces for six seasons.
"The Gresham Farmers Market is becoming like a family," Rieder said. "I'm always shocked when you go on a Saturday and it feels like a big festival and carnival."
Sandy River Jewelry is an example of what makes the Gresham Farmers Market so special — unique, passionate vendors who fill the Gresham Arts Plaza with local produce, fruit, flowers, nursery stock, handcrafted food and baked goods, beer and liquor, crafts and so much more.
"We have regulars who come by every weekend, and some have never even bought anything," Rieder said. "But we love to hear from them and talk."
At 8:30 a.m. every Saturday through October, the Gresham Arts Plaza, on Northeast Third Street and Northeast Hood Avenue in downtown Gresham, is filled with dozens of vendors. The nonprofit farmers market has been going strong in the community since it was established in 1986. And things are bigger and better than ever — even after small speedbumps last season during the height of the pandemic.
For 2021, there are more vendors spaced out in a new layout, allowing for visitors to more comfortably peruse and visit with vendors like Rieder and Stockam.
"If you haven't been to the farmers market, you really should go," Rieder said with a laugh.
If you go
What: Gresham Farmers Market
When: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays
Where: Gresham Arts Plaza, 488 N.E. Third St.
More info: greshamfarmersmarket.com
Lionel Chapman was the king of the smoker during an annual rib cookoff he and his friends would have every Fourth of July.
Cooking and food had always been an important part his life. Chapman, a lifelong Gresham resident, fell in love with the culinary arts as a young kid helping his mother in the kitchen. Then in 2011, his parents again spurred his passion, gifting him with a smoker that would eventually lead to his award winning ribs.
"With my friends I won the rib cookoff six years in a row, and people started mentioning I should make food for people," Chapman said. "I started looking into opening a food cart or truck."
That proved to be a daunting investment for someone who had never owned a restaurant before. Instead, Chapman turned to the Gresham Farmers Market to serve as an incubator for his burgeoning operation — Chapman's BBQ.
"The community has been awesome and well receptive of our food," Chapman said, in his third year at the Gresham Market.
Like fellow vendor Stockam and his silversmithing, Chapman was self-taught when it came to barbecuing. He would experiment with his smoker and grill, trying to find the perfect flavor combinations. He also loved watched pit master shows on television and the internet, picking up tips from the best.
His favorite part of working the grill is all the details.
"It's the commitment — smoking meat for 10-plus hours takes a lot of attention," Chapman said. "I am a stickler for perfection and attention to detail."
His baby back ribs, perfected during those backyard cookoffs, are the showstopper. He also has brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly, which he introduced last year.
"Usually we don't serve until 9 a.m., but we would have people show up early because the pork belly sells out so quickly," he said.
For sides Chapman's BBQ has beans and a popular smoked cheddar mac and cheese.
"One year I made the mistake of replacing the mac and cheese with my potato salad, and people were pretty upset," Chapman said with a laugh.
Chapman loves attending the market through the summer and fall — building a customer base to further his dream of eventually opening a food truck and brick-and-mortar restaurant. In the offseason, he also does pop-up events at The Hoppy Brewer in downtown Gresham.
"I want to give a big thank you to the Gresham community for their continued support," Chapman said.
A hurricane drove a pair of farmers who love cultivating healthy soil and nurturing vibrant produce to relocate to Oregon.
Marieta and Brandon Easley had farmed for three years in Louisiana, but kept losing their crops from natural disasters. In 2012, Hurricane Ivan hit the state, and flooded their entire farm. They lost everything as the property was underwater for 5 days.
"We knew if we were going to do this as a profession, living on land that could flood maybe wasn't the best option," Marieta said.
So the couple relocated to Sandy in 2015, opening Slice of Heaven Farm near the former Roslyn Lake. The 17-acre property uses all organic practices, though not certified, growing A-to-Z vegetables — arugula to zucchini and everything in-between.
"One of our missions is to keep our food super local," Marieta said. "We want to serve this mountain and foothill communities; we want to feed our neighbors."
That is why in the same year they moved to the state, they opened a booth at the Gresham Farmers Market. They also operate a booth at the Mt. Hood Farmers Market in Sandy.
"(Gresham) is such a fun market, seeing the same faces and making friends with a lot of the vendors," Marieta said. "Sometimes we do a bartering system with the vendors, trading our vegetables for fruit or pork. It feels like such an organic connection, and since we are on the farm most of the week it's the one day we get to be social."
Right now, with the early markets, Slice of Heaven has lots of varieties of lettuce grown in the greenhouse, fresh herbs, and leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula. Soon they will have carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and more.
Slice of Heaven also offers a Community Supported Agriculture program that allows customers to pick up weekly produce boxes at the market.
"There have been people who have visited us since we first began," Marieta said. "Thank you for your loyalty and continued support."
Found at the Market
Sandy River Jewelry
Heather Rieder and Alan Stockam
Hand crafted jewelry using old-school silversmithing
Homemade smoked ribs, brisket, pork belly, pulled pork, and side dishes
Facebook: Chapman's BBQ
Slice of Heaven Farm
Marieta and Brandon Easley
Homegrown vegetables and produce
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