One of the most defining qualities of the Portland food scene is overlooked by almost everyone in the community except the farmer. That is the proximity of surrounding farmlands to the city markets and restaurants they supply. There are few cities that enjoy such a short drive into town with a van full of fragile, often highly perishable produce.
One of my primary suppliers drives in from Canby, Oregon, a mere 30 miles from the restaurant in downtown Portland. Sheldon and his wife Carole keep about 12 acres of land productive for 11 months out of the year. His recordkeeping is very thorough, and his planting is carefully planned. One of the most impressive feats of this farm is its efficiency of delivery into the city. Every square foot of the company van is accounted for, with three different dimensions of waxed cardboard boxes tightly arranged according to the delivery route, filling perfectly the 48 inches between the wheel wells. Flats of tomatoes, tomatillos or ground cherries are stacked in the rear, so that all the boxes are secured against tipping and sliding.
The small farmer has to have a wide skill set. Not just a green thumb, but able to fix machinery, balance an uneven cash flow, organize their planting and crop rotation, and maximize their delivery space for the trek into the city. It's inspiring to see it all come together. So, next time you are shopping at the farmers market, remember all the hidden efforts and expenses that have gone into their lovely market stall.