-  Shoppers will find variety of produce, crafts at two Gresham markets from May through October

We are fortunate to live in an area loaded with choices for the cream of the crop in locally grown seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers. And from May through October, open-air market devotees know Saturdays are spent enjoying a cup o’ Joe, soaking up live entertainment and meeting the neighbors who grow our food.

This year, for the first time, Gresham plays hosts to two such venues. The iconic Gresham Farmers Market returns for its 28th season in the downtown core area, while the Gresham Saturday Market will kick off its inaugural season on the corner of Northeast Burnside Road and Eastman Parkway. Combined, more than 130 growers, farmers and local artisans will greet shoppers beginning Saturday, May 10, at the two locations, offering their best in farm-fresh goods and wonderful handcrafted items for the home and garden.

Let us introduce you to two of the vendors you’ll meet this year.

Gresham Farmers Market

When Linda-Woods Taylor and husband Jim bought their three acres of land in Boring in 2004, the property came with a 1912 farmhouse and a boatload of overgrown blackberry bushes.

In the middle of the out-of-control vegetation was a small brown log cabin, housing one narrow room with two bunks and a few storage shelves. The Taylors learned through neighborhood lore that the cabin was built in the mid-1800s, reputedly by Sam Barlow.

Linda admits she has no documentation to back up that claim, but today, the little cabin serves as a springboard for a booming business the Taylors call the Little Brown House Herbary.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Jim Taylor, left, and wife Linda Woods-Taylor own the Little Brown House Herbary, which will return to the Gresham Farmers Market for its sixth season. The couple grow traditional herbs for cooking, as well as several varieties used for medicinal purposes in three greenhouses on their property in Boring.

The couple got into the herb arena mostly by accident. Looking to offset steep property taxes, Linda stumbled upon the possibility of a financial break if the land was used for agricultural purposes.

“I was a city girl,” Linda said. “I wanted something that didn’t require much of me. I planted three flats of herbs at first, since the requirement for the tax break was like $600 at the time. That first year didn’t go well. But since then, it’s grown and grown.”

Grown, indeed. When the Taylors arrive at the Gresham Farmers Market for their sixth season this weekend, their sales racks will contain only a fraction of the 12,000 plants they nurture each year. Along with conventional cooking herbs, such as basil, chives and parsley, Linda grows several varieties used for medicinal purposes — true valerian (also called “Poor Man’s Valium”) and marshmallow (which can be used for an upset stomach). Marshmallow? Who knew it was a plant to begin with? by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Of the more 12,000 herb plants Linda Woods-Taylor nurtures each year, marshmallow rates up there as one of the most unusual. Marshmallow is considered a natural remedy for an upset stomach.

The Little Brown House Herbary is a well-balanced operation between the couple. Linda tends to the plants, while Jim is in charge of the “facilities,” meaning details like the water system and heat in the herbary’s three greenhouses. They both use a natural approach to the growing process, as evidenced with 8,500 gallons of captured rainwater for irrigation, and Linda’s secret soil recipe, which includes composted grass clippings from the farm. The pesticide they use is made with oil from bark of the neem tree found in South America.

“All of our plants are certified naturally grown,” Linda said. “What that means is that we are certified through a national program for farmers who don’t have the money for organic certification.”

As Linda’s herb garden began to gain ground, Jim enrolled in a class at Mt. Hood Community College to learn more about small agricultural operations. “How to Grow Plants for Fun and Profit” turned out to be a “wealth of information,” he said.

“It was good information on climate zones, wholesale sources and other growers’ associations,” Jim said. “I also learned how much you can cram into a small space.”

A descendent in a long line of Klamath Falls farmers, Jim says he had a premonition about a national economic recession shortly before it happened in 2008. He planted an orchard, which now boasts peaches, apricots, 11 varieties of apples and four varieties of cherries, and one day may become a U-pick.

“I saw everything coming and I wanted the farm to be self-sufficient if we had to survive,” he said. “That’s how the orchard came about. But a U-pick is a lot of time waiting for people to show up. With the market, it’s a point of sale. So we may take fruit to the market some day too. It may come to that.”

Linda calls her kitchen “mostly vegetarian,” meaning she cooks with the herbs she grows. She routinely shares her recipes with shoppers at the market and enjoys helping novice herb growers get started. But in a small way, Linda said, the business is giving back to that little brown cabin that started it all.

“These suckers are hard to grow,” she said, laughing. “They’re temperamental with temperature and water. It’s hard to stay on top of the weather. But I love it. I really think we’re honoring this farm by doing this.”

Gresham Saturday Market

Jake Bissell, owner of Two Guys and Grill, stood his ground once, with a customer who was skeptical of Bissell’s claim for serving authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.

“He told me he was a truck driver and drove in and out of Philadelphia all the time,” Bissell said. “He said nobody could compete with (iconic Philly cheesesteak eateries) Gino’s or Pat’s. I told him I would buy the sandwich back from him if he didn’t like it. He bought one and came back a little while later and bought four more. That’s why I have a money-back guarantee on that sandwich.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Jake Bissell, owner of Two Guys and a Grill, once sold cookware for the Salad Master Company and credits the experience as the foundation for his homemade salads, which are a la carte additions to his grilled sandwich menu. Bissell is a Gresham resident making his first appearance in a local market.

Bissell is no novice as a vendor at community events and festivals. For the past 13 years, he has hauled equipment and tents from McMinnville to Vernonia, peddling everything from his grilled sandwiches to Hawaiian shaved ice. Two Guys and a Grill was a joint venture between Bissell and his brother, after the pair had attended several festivals as research for a food cart business of their own. Not only were they surprised by the repetition among food vendors at each event, but Bissell was appalled at the lack of good sanitation practices employed by workers.

“The minimum health requirement is two buckets — one for hot water and one for cold,” he said. “But we saw vendors using a water container with a spigot to wash their hands. That’s not sanitary. So we developed a hand washing station for our booth that uses a foot-control for water flow and cleanliness. It doesn’t waste water and you don’t recontaminate your hands. My motto is, ‘Be safe, have fun and serve the customer.’ If you can’t do that, you can’t work with me.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Most folks would refer to Bissell's Fresh Seven Ingredient Salad as coleslaw, but the side dish is a refreshing blend of julienned apples, vegetables and a super secret honey mustard dressing Bissell makes from scratch. Bissell is a former salesman for the Salad Master company, a purveyor of cookware, and credits that experience with the foundation for his recipes. His Fresh Seven Ingredient Salad is a refreshing take on what most folks would refer to as coleslaw, but with a surprising addition of julienned apples and a homemade “super secret” honey mustard dressing.

But what Two Guys and a Grill does best, Bissell said, are the grilled sandwiches. His signature may be the Philly cheesesteak, but the menu also includes an a la carte offering of salads, grilled veggie sandwiches and a kid’s meal, with a grilled cheese sandwich, juice box and bag of chips for $4.

“The grilled veggie sandwich isn’t strictly vegetarian,” Bissell said. “I grill it on the same grill as the other sandwiches, so it can’t be called ‘vegan,’ but it’s really good.”

Die-hard Philly cheesesteak fans may be disappointed to learn Bissell doesn’t use Cheez-Whiz on his sandwich. He prefers white Swiss/American cheese for its melting ability and creamy addition to the meat.

“I had a customer who asked for Cheez-Whiz once, so I bought a can,” Bissell said. “I never used it again. I really like the sliced cheese. It’s so gooey and delicious. The cheese just melts right there on the grill.”

Bissell is a Gresham resident who’s thrilled he won’t be schlepping his booth very far for his first appearance in a local market. Though he and his brother went their separate ways a few years ago, Bissell is retaining the business name for the next generation.

“I was a one-person operation until my son was born,” Bissell said. “He’s 6 now and he’s the second guy. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

If you go

Gresham Farmers Market — 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday from May 10 through Oct. 25, Northwest Third Street between Miller and Main avenues in downtown Gresham. More than 80 vendors will offer homegrown fruits, vegetables and flowers, along with products and services by local craftspeople. The market is dog-friendly, but furry friends must be on a leash at all times.

Gresham Saturday Market — 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Saturday from May 10 to Oct. 25, 440 N.W. Burnside Road, in the Kmart parking lot. Fifty-plus vendors have signed on for the new venue, which will include farm-fresh produce, flowers and the works of local artisans. Ample parking and easy access.

Troutdale Farmers Market — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 25, in the Rail Depot Museum parking lot, 473 E. Historic Columbia River Highway.

Fairview Open-Air Market — 3-8 p.m. Thursdays, 1300 Village St., in front of City Hall.

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