Eric TwoRivers hopes to create 'true' farmers market, promote business district

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Eric TwoRivers has long been passionate about local markets, and the West Linn residnet jumped at the opportunity to manage the city's Summer Market.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version.

Well before he started working at them, Eric TwoRivers had a passion for local markets.

Farmers markets, flea markets, swap meets — TwoRivers loved them all, and he always made a point to visit one during frequent travel stops as a professional musician and commercial photographer.

"I'm always collecting things that might be used in a photo, so swap meets and flea markets are real cool for me," TwoRivers said. "Farmers markets are just kind of a natural offshoot of flea markets; I think ... It was just kind of a hobby."

In recent years, TwoRivers' interest has evolved beyond a hobby as he managed several local markets in southwest Washington before moving to West Linn and eventually coming on as the new manager of the West Linn Summer Market.

"I've got about 10 years of working individual booths and this will be my fourth year managing a market," TwoRivers said.

TwoRivers, who was hired in late February, has big dreams for the West Linn market, but he's quick to qualify what the market is and isn't in its current state.

"It's not actually a farmers market — yet," TwoRivers said. "We don't have enough farms in it to be a farmers market. ... I do have six farms in it right now, but out of 25 vendors that's not a very high ratio.

"In the best scenario, I'd like to have about 40 vendors and half of them be farms."

Attracting farms to a Wednesday evening market like West Linn's is a challenge, TwoRivers said.

"We have to go talk to the farms, which I'm doing, and try to convince them it's worth their while," TwoRivers said.

But this year's market will still have plenty to offer when it opens June 6, and TwoRivers — who is certified as a "master food preserver" through the University of Washington and United States Department of Agriculture — is placing a particular emphasis on food education this year.

"We can be educating people about what to do with the produce and stuff they get at the market," TwoRivers said. "Part of my job is to do that — I teach people how to can, how to preserve foods. ... We'll have guest chefs come in; they'll pick from the market and then we'll create something and preserve it that day."

TwoRivers, a San Francisco native who is a member of the Blackfoot Nation tribe, says he will work to incorporate some of his heritage into the market. Additionally, he sees working with the local business community as paramount to the success of the market.

"Part of my job as I see it is to bring new potential customers to all the businesses that are (in the area)," he said. "We've got some good businesses there, so creating a farmers market would bring new people to the area that maybe aren't aware of historic Willamette — so that's good for the businesses."

TwoRivers' expansive vision is part of what made him a natural hire for Historic Willamette Main Street Manager Rae Gordon.

"I really like his concept of making it a true farmers market," Gordon said. "I think making it the go-to place to buy the produce for the area would be awesome."

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