At market, folks sample foods, business ideas

A farmers market booth lets an entrepreneur pitch his brisket face-to-face with the customer base

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter



The spotlight shines on Portland’s food-cart scene, but you could say Vancouver has had one for more than 20 years.

It’s just that it’s only around on weekends — and just from spring through autumn.

If you go

• What: Vancouver Farmers Market.

• When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays, March 19 through Oct. 30.

• Where: Esther and Sixth streets.

• Information:

The Vancouver Farmers Market, which opens March 19 (and will run through Oct. 30), has long had an eclectic collection of food booths. Of the 220 vendors at the market, about 20 sell food.

Not all of them show up every weekend, but there’s still plenty of variety for market shoppers — from brisket to borscht, teriyaki to tamales.

“My view of the farmers market is that it’s an incubator,” said Hector Hinojosa of Foody Blues BBQ, a regular at the market. “It’s an inexpensive way to get started. There’s not huge overhead.”

When Hinojosa and his wife, Jodell, started at the market, they sold grilling spices, but people wanted a taste, so the business evolved into what it is today: a spot for pulled pork, brisket and other dishes.

It took a while to develop a clientele because people were unfamiliar with Texas barbecue. They’d ask, “What’s brisket?”

So Hinojosa would explain that it’s a cut of beef and offer a sample. And business grew over time.

Foody Blues’ story illustrates that the farmers market is more than a low-risk way for food vendors to get started. It’s also a way for the timid to explore new cuisine.

That extends beyond the food booths. Shoppers will have a chance to learn more about preparing dishes from the market’s available produce. The market will have a community education booth for cooking demonstrations, as well as instruction on nutrition and how to shop the market, said Jordan Boldt, the market’s executive director.

He doesn’t expect many changes at the market this year, although the Friday hours have been cut. The Evergreen market at Endeavour Elementary School in east Vancouver will return, but it doesn’t open until May 7.

The downtown market will feel familiar to its patrons.

“It’s still a really good market,” Boldt said. “But we’re always trying to add new vendors to give people reason to return.”