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Farmers' market starts tonight

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Every Thursday, starting tonight, farmers offering fresh produce will descend on downtown Lincoln. Tonight signals the start of downtown Lincoln?s annual farmers? market, which runs from mid-June through August. Billie Jean Salle, Sierra Fresh Certified Farmers? Market manager, said ?a couple of new farmers? are joining this year?s line-up. Sierra Fresh Certified Farmers? Market organizes the produce side of the market, Salle said. The Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce organizes various business, craft and food vendors that will also be featured during the market, according to the chamber?s membership and events coordinator Terri Reeves. New for this year?s market will be a thrice-nightly raffle, instead of the two that have taken place before. ?Usually, there?s so much abundance (of produce). The farmers give us so much that when each person won, we filled two big green farmers? market bags up plus two or three plastic grocery bags,? Reeves said. ?They?re carrying a plant in their hands, and if the bread person is there, they give that.? Anyone can sign up for the raffle by visiting the chamber?s booth during the market. ?It?s so they have an opportunity to try the farmer?s products and to encourage them to come down and stay a little while,? Reeves said. ?All of the restaurants around the plaza will be open.? New vendors on the chamber?s side of the market will include a corn roaster, soft-serve ice cream and one that Reeves said she is ?personally excited about.? ?Tomboy Tools, they are pink tools for women,? Reeves said. ?They have not only construction tools but painting tools and garden tools. Pink is my favorite color.? Reeves said vendors can sign up through the summer for $15 a night per chamber member and $25 a night per non-chamber member. Reeves said she ?loves the farmers? market.? ?I love that the community comes down and shops and enjoys the music,? Reeves said. ?I always know every year I?ll run into people I haven?t seen in awhile. It?s a great atmosphere.? Salle said she has 20 farmers signed up for the produce side of the farmers? market, including some new names such as Basil Creek Farms and El Dorado Lavender. Despite what Salle calls a ?challenging spring? due to a cool spring and a ?warmer than early winter,? this year?s crops have come in heavy. ?So far, what we?ve been picking has been very sweet,? Salle said of this year?s fruit crop. This year?s farmers? market will feature a variety of produce, including fruits such as cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, strawberries and blackberries; vegetables including artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, fava beans, green garlic, peas, bok choy and Asian eggplant. ?We try to watch product saturation. We don?t want to have 10 vendors and nine are doing tomatoes,? Salle said. ?We try to have a nice mix of vegetables, fruit, flowers, meat and lavender. It means you have variety and selection, and it makes it more of a one-stop shop for customers if you can find more items in one place.? Salle said there will also be olive oil, pistachio, honey and bread vendors, as well as wheatgrass from Basil Creek Farms, which is something ?we haven?t had at the market.? One returning farmer will be Gordon Poulsen from Willow Creek Farms in Penryn. ?I?m looking forward to meeting the people I met last year and regular customers,? Poulsen said. Poulsen said this is his ?third or fourth year? at the downtown Lincoln Farmers? Market. He?ll bring blueberries, blackberries, cucumbers, Walla Walla onions, potatoes and Candy Apple red onions to this year?s market. Poulsen retired three years ago as a produce inspector for the Department of Food and Agriculture. ?What I used to do with the inspection service was not just being an inspector but I taught classes to new inspectors,? Poulsen said. ?I knew what the defects were and what I started doing was I started growing everything we looked at and inspected, and I would bring my defects to class to show them.? Farming is now his ?hobby and passion,? something that keeps him busy from April to December. ?I feel rewarded in growing things. I feel rewarded when I see a plant produce something and when I sell it to people and they keep coming back,? Poulsen said. ?That?s my reward and not too many retirement hobbies pay for themselves. I have double gain there.?