Connecting foreign flavors with local eating

This coming Sunday, the Lents International Farmers Market will kick off this season’s monthly celebration days with an Eastern European Day Celebration. What sets this market festival apart, however, is that the Lents Market has made a commitment to the ethnic communities of Portland right in their own neighborhood. Lents encompasses a large community of lower-income residents, many of whom are recent immigrants. Populations of Hmong, Eastern Europeans and Russians, Hispanics, Cambodians, and Somali-Bantu combine to make Lents one of the most diverse parts of the city. While these demographics have historically been under-served in their fair access to local and sustainable foods, the Lents Market is dedicated towards improving neighborhood food security. Zenger Farm, the group that helps run the Lents Market, has offered workshops in small-scale agriculture for immigrant farmers, assisting them in connecting with restaurants and markets and gaining economic stability. By sponsoring the Lents International Farmers Market, Zenger Farm has brought good, healthful food to a low income community, grown locally by neighborhood residents.

Beyond the social gains of the market, Lents puts to rest two commonly held misconceptions about local food: 1) that farming can’t coexist with urban spaces and 2) that eating locally means abandoning unusual ethnic ingredients, like Chinese broccoli. Many of the producers selling at the market farm plots either in Portland or in close proximity to the urban core. Their products, meanwhile, prove that incredibly local food can depart dramatically from most people’s preconceptions of Oregon produce. Throughout the season, the stands at the Lents Market vend such diverse produce as bitter melon and cilantro roots, alongside squash, carrots, and greens. These flavors illustrate the great diversity of products that our region can grow and they begin to show how a community can support itself through securing access to local foods.

Join Slow Food Portland this Sunday, July 13th at 10:30 am for a tour of the market vendors with Market Manager Jill Kuehler of Zenger Farms.

Visit the Lents International Farmers Market every Sunday from 9 am until 2 pm, June 15 until October 12. The Market is located at SE 92nd and SE Foster Road.

For more information on the Lents International Farmers Market and assistance programs for immigrant farmers, check out:

Portland Tribune article on the market

Zenger Farm

Edible Portland article on immigrant farmers

Mercy Corps Northwest offers support for beginning farmers through their New American Agriculture Project

Thanks for sharing

  1. Louisa
    Louisa07-22-2008

    Hi! Great work on the website. I just started a food blog in Portland. Check it out if you like:

    http://www.theportlandpickle.com

    cheers!

  2. Linda
    Linda07-27-2008

    I represented Slow Food Portland at the Lents International Farmers Market on this day. I asked my friend Emese, who is from Erderly, if she would come and make her family’s traditional plum dumpling with me as part of the Slow Food Portland volunteer day. Emese immigrated to the United States when she was eight years old and has held fast to her cultural traditions. The plum dumplings were fun to make and tasty too. I met a number of Slow Food members and others who had done years of work in the Carpathian Mountain basin. What strikes me is that the foods that grow well there grow well here too. We just have different stories and ways of using the food. Last summer I made a traditional Hungarian plum paste to preserve over the winter. When I served it at a dinner for a Hungarian friend, she exclaimed that it tasted just like her grandmother used to make- only not as sweet. What I am enjoying is learning about the food traditions of another culture without a recipe but from traditional knowledge.