Yesterday was the first day of summer, but here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s hard not to have a love-hate relationship with the onset of the fairest season of them all, mostly because the onset of summer isn’t actually very summery at all. It’s more like 60 degrees and cloudy with a chance of me moving to the Caribbean. Thank goodness for the farmers’ markets.
After all, is there any greater pick-me-up than browsing miles of open-air aisles stuffed with fresh Oregon produce, meat, and flowers? Not unless you count flying to the Caribbean, and I don’t, because so far, Sir Richard Branson hasn’t answered any of my emails about couchsurfing on Necker Island.
‘Round these parts, one of the very best browsing markets is the weekend edition of the Beaverton Farmers Market, where you can stock your larder with all imaginable delicacies, stay for a snack at one of the many tantalizing prepared food vendors like Feastworks or Canby Asparagus Farms, AND people-watch to your heart’s content. Every single Saturday. Which is so much better than staying home and organizing your crisper vegetables in rainbow order while you wait for a British billionaire to email you back.
Last Saturday, the Beaverton Farmers Market was gracious enough to host us for a shopping expedition, so we decided to gather the necessary supplies for an enviable picnic. Before committing to final purchases, we performed the FML, or First Market Lap—that critical initial assessment of the market’s labyrinth of tempting tents, with the intent of identifying top cheese and bread options, evaluating which strawberries were the sweetest, doing a bit of cherry-spotting, and of course, sampling spicy pickled asparagus. Our shopping smorgasbord looked something like this.
Next, there was some serious discussion and negotiation, and then the tokens started flying. Soon, our shopping bag was spilling over with loaves of Fressen Artisan Bakery olive and pretzel breads, Portland Creamery’s fresh chevre and a wedge of Willamette Valley Cheese Company’s Farmstead Gouda, a stick of Finocchiona salami from Olympic Provisions, Skipanon smoked salmon, a pint of explosively-flavorful Shuksan strawberries from Winters Farm, a bundle of crisp, rosy little breakfast radishes, sweet-tart Chelan cherries, a sack of sugar snap peas, a jar of ProFarm’s addictive spicy pickled asparagus spears, Pacific Pie Company’s strawberry rhubarb galette, and a bundle of fresh pink peonies.
Our master picnic plan was to ferret our haul off to market vendor Arcane Cellars’ Salem tasting room for a picturesque rosé-drenched luncheon along the Willamette River, but this plan was foiled when we arrived at the Wheatland Ferry crossing to find this:
If you squint, you can see the ferry—dry-docked for repairs on the other side. Needless to say, we were ferry disappointed. (Sorry.)
Backtracking (and I won’t pretend I wasn’t a bit sulky at this point), we passed an unassuming driveway marked Willamette Mission State Park. At this point, our options were a) push on stoically like the pioneers would have to find another crossing despite extreme picnic cravings and fraying tempers, or b) investigate this park and eat immediately. We, not being pioneers or particularly stoic, chose the option that involved eating immediately. After all, three girls can only carry around a picnic that opulent for so long before falling upon it like raccoons on an unguarded camping cooler.
Given our poor ferry luck, the last thing we expected to find down this random road was a gorgeous, peaceful, pristine, and spotless park.
Plopping down our blankets under an oak tree, we commenced picnicking as only we know how.
Ultimately, our market picnic was a rousing success, even without the ferry ride I’d dreamed about. But fortunately, since I like to have it all, a second chance to picnic at Arcane with the help of the Beaverton Farmers Market approaches—on August 19th, as part of the Market’s Summer in the Vineyard series, for $25, you can spend the day at Arcane Cellars wine tasting, picnicking, eating Willamette Valley cheese and chef David Quinn’s crab cakes, and, taking a ride on the Wheatland Ferry. (Fighting recurring feelings of disappointment and ire as I type this.)
If you, for some reason, don’t have a yearning to ride the Wheatland Ferry and drink wine (weird!), the market is hosting several more special events this summer, from their Feast on the Farm dinners at Unger Farms and Sungold Farm, to this Sunday’s Summer in the Vineyard event at Laurel Ridge Winery, to the ongoing Amazing Market Race Scavenger Hunt.
Or, if you’ve got a yen to explore an unknown park in the middle of beautiful nowhere, retrace our steps and have an adventure picnic, you know, if you don’t already have plans to spend the weekend couchsurfing on Richard Branson’s private island. (Cue sound of pitiful sniffling and carrots being placed before the yellow bell peppers.)
*Alternate title: Beaverton Farmers Market: A Very Good Reason Not To Move To The Caribbean