In a year marked by canceled events, separation, and loss, it can be difficult to focus on the positives. But one place that positive energy was palpable this summer was in Fir Street Park each Sunday. The success of Sisters Farmers Market can be attributed to a few factors — perhaps the most prominent being the community support.

In March, the pandemic threatened the possibility of holding markets this summer. It was the community of vendors from past seasons of Sisters Farmers Market that advocated for the continuation of the in-person events. The Seed to Table team, in their first year managing the Market, hit the ground running to plan safe infrastructure for opening day on June 7. The City of Sisters provided guidance and resources to ensure the safety of the event in the context of the coronavirus. With crucial volunteer support, an online pre-order service was created to provide a contactless pick-up option for vulnerable community members. Seed to Table provided a Food For All Discount at their weekly booth, giving those financially impacted by COVID-19 access to vegetables and other essential items at discounted rates or free of charge. In addition, vendors who themselves were vulnerable to COVID-19 were able to sell in a contactless method as well. Special thank you to The Roundhouse Foundation and the Central Oregon Health Council for making our COVID-19 discount program possible! 

By opening day, 10 different vendors were scheduled for the season. Volunteers arrived early to set up the one-way flow, give friendly distancing reminders, and help hand out free KN95 masks and hand sanitizer. A few hundred shoppers attended the first Sisters Farmers Market, one of the only communal events in Sisters since March. Word spread around communities of shoppers and vendors about the safe and welcoming environment created at the Market throughout the 16 weeks of the season. By the 17th and final event on Sunday October 4, the maximum number of vendors was reached at 25 spaces, and over 750 shoppers poured in for closing day.

Another remarkable success attributed to our supportive community was the September Fundraising Raffle. Originally created to raise funds for helping offset extra costs due to COVID-19 this season, the Raffle expanded mid-month to fundraise for farmers and families impacted by the devastating statewide wildfires. The community showed their support for these causes by purchasing Raffle tickets in-person and online throughout the month, raising over $7,000 in all. Half of the overall proceeds were divided between two Oregon wildfire relief efforts; UNETE, Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, and Friend of Family Farmers’/Portland CSA Coalition’s GoFundMe for small farms affected by Oregon wildfires. Four local community members were drawn as winners on October 1 for various prize packages consisting of over $3,000 of goods and services donated by local producers and businesses.

The real success of the Sisters Farmers Market can hardly be quantified in numbers. In a year when more separated us than brought us together, the Market created a source of hopefulness and community love, which is at the heart of Sisters culture. Anyone who meandered through the path of eclectic booths was able to tap into the joyous, vibrant, and inclusive environment created by the people involved. We may not know what our cherished community events will look like in the near future, but lessons from this year exemplified how a supportive community can inspire connection and grow resilience.

For more information on the 2021 Market, visit www.sistersfarmersmarket.com.