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home : business : business December 18, 2018

1/30/2018 2:10:00 PM
Market seeks to rise from fire
Two of Sisters Farmers Marketís three co-managers welcomed a new family member in December. Carys Wilkins and Benji Nagel are stepping down partly to focus on raising newborn Junius Quinn. photo TL Brown
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Two of Sisters Farmers Marketís three co-managers welcomed a new family member in December. Carys Wilkins and Benji Nagel are stepping down partly to focus on raising newborn Junius Quinn. photo TL Brown

The inner workings of a farmers market
The Sisters Farmers Market charges vendors a modest fee, using revenues to cover administrative, park rental, and marketing costs. Managers share approximately $1,000 as a stipend in a normal season; the new manager could earn more.

"There's potential to make money. If you're self-motivated, you can find funding, apply for grants and sponsorships," former co-manager Benji Nagel said.

Sisters Farmers Market is run under the auspices of Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD). Nagel said, "SPRD has been really helpful. They're pretty hands-off but also really supportive." The new market manager can expect to forge a relationship with SPRD while the District itself undergoes major changes, bringing on a new director and a new board member.

Despite its name, SPRD does not run most of the town's parks; those are managed by the City of Sisters, which charges fees for usage.

Former co-manager Carys Wilkins said, "The City has been the most challenging piece of the whole thing," even though she and Nagel found their primary contact person at City Hall, Nicole Abbenhuis, to be friendly and helpful. According to Wilkins, the City requested that the market move across town, then required weeks of negotiations before allowing the market to use adjacent parking spaces for food trucks.

Nagel said, "It's definitely never felt like the City is thinking, 'Oh yeah, we would love to have a farmers market!'...We applied for a grant from the City. Eighteen people applied, 15 people received money - not us."

New City Manager Brant Kucera noted that he hasn't interacted with the market yet.

"That being said, the City will continue to actively support the farmers market as we have in the past," he stated. "This is mainly through setting up Fir Street Park for their use, providing them with power at no charge, putting the shade sails up, etcetera." Abbenhuis clarified that electricity is included in park usage fees for all renters, and that shade sails will remain mounted throughout the summer.

What should a new manager bring to managing the market?

"Time," Wilkins answered. "The best person for the job would be someone just retired who's got a lot of energy and would love to put it into community-building."

For more information visit

By Tiffany Lee Brown

Sisters Farmers Market lost more than money in 2017. Following a smoke-choked year, all three of its co-managers have announced their resignations. Carys Wilkins and Benji Nagel plan to focus on their farm and their newborn baby, while Angelena Bosco expands her cooking classes and entrepreneur day camps.

The market is looking for an energetic new manager willing to work as a volunteer, with the possibility of a cash stipend.

Vendors experienced an unusually strong early season, especially considering the market had moved. With its beautifully wrought band shell stage and water play area, Fir Street Park proved an excellent new location. Local naturopathic doctor Kim Hapke, for example, enjoyed bringing her young son, noting that the splash pad made market days "even more exciting for him and relaxing for me."

Then came the 24,000-acre Milli Fire, and with it, weeks of thick smoke.

"The town was dead," Wilkins recalled. "It was really sad. The last market of the season had four vendors; we started out the year with 18."

As a first-time vendor, Josie Johnson of Josie's Best Gluten Free Mixes said the market was worth it financially despite the smoke. She noticed the market was "very well organized. Carys and I were both pregnant for the majority of the season, so we had fun sharing that experience. Angelena is always supportive and helpful."

To Johnson, the market is a community phenomenon: "Shopping at local farmers markets not only gets the freshest food for the customers; it is putting money right back into their community."

Nagel graduated from Sisters High School in 2006 and left town for new experiences. He returned seven years later with his partner Wilkins, both of whom had worked at farmers markets and on farms.

"I didn't realize what a cool and unique and interesting place this was until I moved away," Nagel admitted. "Meeting people in college I was like, 'What do you mean you didn't have a music program at your school? What do you mean, you didn't go backpacking with your class?' We wanted to bring some of the things we loved about other places we've lived back to Sisters - things like a farmers market and local food culture."

Nagel and Wilkins started Mahonia Gardens, a farm east of Locust Street, and signed on as co-managers in 2013, when the market was just two years old. Wilkins praised the market for being "the opposite of globalization. There's the health factor of having food that's harvested when it's ready, the factor of not using fossil fuels to get your food to where you are, and the beauty of knowing what grows in your area, at what time of year."

Nagel said, "To be able to sell stuff right here where it's grown and produced, as opposed to having to go to Bend or wherever else - it just makes sense. This is our little village. We should be able to sell our goods here."

Nagel said that a "strong, connected, multigenerational music community" helped draw him back home to Sisters; he enjoyed booking the farmers market shows. He continues to play guitar, slide, and dobro around town with bands like Honey Don't, and plans to sell produce at Sisters Farmers Market every Friday next summer.

Bosco will also maintain a presence at the market. "Last year I hosted a one-week Kid-Made Camp that was a huge success," she said. "Teaching kids life and entrepreneurial skills was so much fun for me! Local children learned to manage money, set aside revenues for charity, make packaging, and sell their wares. This year the kids will be selling their goods on July 20 at Sisters Farmers Market, with other dates in Bend."

Community members expressed gratitude for the market. Connie Mitchell, a broker at Coldwell Banker Reed Bros Realty, said that supporting local producers and merchants is "good business." She loves knowing where the products come from.

"The produce, which is high quality, has no waxes, pesticides or hormones. I love the locally raised beef, and the skincare products are made with plant-based ingredients, all natural," she said.

Dr. Hapke noted how the market promotes wellbeing in Sisters.

"Healthwise, I think that besides just the vitamins and minerals in the produce, I am always surprised at how long very fresh fruits and veggies last, and how good they are," she said. "I never really go crazy eating produce from the grocery store, but berries or asparagus from the farmers market get eaten in copious amounts."

City Manager Brant Kucera said Sisters Farmers Market is "a vital part of the fabric of our business district. It draws people to the downtown and provides access to fresh, nutritious produce grown locally-meaning it is also environmentally friendly."

For more information, see related story, page 18.

Co-manager Angelena Bosco is resigning from the Sisters Farmers Market leadership team to devote more time to her new project, a day camp for young entrepreneurs.

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