Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard
After more than 30 years, area residents have come to see the Lane
County Farmers’ Market as a downtown Eugene perennial.
Local growers’ colorful stands of produce and plants – and a
growing array of local meats, cheeses and eggs – have become as reliable
a sign of spring as daffodils and rhododendrons.
But even as the market sends out new runners in the form of
satellite sites this spring, its leaders say they were scrambling to
keep it alive a year ago.
Several years of inept management led to state
in law, means of requiring a third party who holds a debt (including wages) due a defendant to retain the property temporarily. The garnishment consists of a warning, in the form of a judgment, to the third party, called the garnishee, not to deliver the
unpaid payroll taxes and a
federal tax lien
, nearly wiping out the
Investment funds that are held in short-term assets such as Treasury bills and certificates of deposit until more permanent investment opportunities are available.
“I was pretty worried last year that the market was going to
fail,” said Walt Bernard, the group’s new board president.
“And a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on the Lane County
Farmers’ Market being solvent.”
The 100-plus vendor market has survived and is stronger than ever,
That’s partly because of a crisis-spurred restructuring that
has added oversight checks and balances, as well as four community
representatives to the market’s nine-member board of directors,
said Bernard, whose family runs Ruby and Amber’s Farm in Dexter.
He and board treasurer John Poynter credit other factors, as well:
Several of the board’s farmers volunteered hundreds of hours over
three years, sorting out the market’s jumbled finances. U.S. Rep.
Peter DeFazio’s office and a national nonprofit taxpayer advocacy
group helped the board negotiate a payment plan with the
the market penalties for its late taxes. And one of the board’s new
community members, attorney Dave Brabender, helped the market secure a
two-year, $15,000 loan from the city of Eugene to help cover the 2011
market’s start-up expenses.
“The organization got into a very unfortunate situation,”
said Isabelle Light, who also joined the board last year as a community
representative. “But because of that, it really took steps to make
sure this never happens again.”
The Eugene homemaker said the crisis should remind the community
not to take its “exceptional” market for granted.
“Many, many cities this size across the country don’t
have this asset,” she said. “It’s important for us as a
community to nurture and sustain it.”
Indeed, expanding community involvement in the market is a top
priority for Bernard, a transplanted Missourian who also has a demanding
day job as an
A medical specialist who administers an anesthetic to a patient before he is treated.
Mentioned in: Anesthesia, General, Appendectomy, Parathyroidectomy
Among his top goals is establishing a “Friends of the
Farmers’ Market” to help the group realize its mission
statement: “To further the health of the entire community by
enhancing the viability of producing and marketing Oregon-grown fruits,
vegetables, herbs, flowers, plant and animal products, through a
democratic association which advances the shared values of the market
“Community interest in local food is huge right now,”
Bernard said. “We want to build on that to make food more available
and bring more product in for our farmers.”
Light said the growing demand may require a new location for the
“The market’s been in the same spot since the 1980s, but
it’s grown exponentially,” she said. “We’ve made no
decisions, but are continuing to explore our options for more space. We
need a space more welcoming to families with small children, babies in
strollers, people with disabilities, the elderly – anyone with mobility
The board would love to keep the market in downtown Eugene, so as
to maintain its “vibrant partnership” with the adjacent
Saturday Market, Light said. But the latter group opposes a
Farmers’ Market proposal to close more downtown streets during
market hours to add more vendor space and create wider walkways for
, the market is adding space in a different way,
said board member Jackie LaRue, who raises annuals, perennials and
vegetable starts at her family’s Fern Ridge Gardens farm. This
month, it launched two midweek satellite operations in the
area and in south Eugene. One site, proposed by PeaceHealth,
operates Tuesdays at 11th Avenue and Alder Street.
“It’s already getting a lot of walk-by traffic,”
said LaRue, a retired professional oboist whose day job is marketing
director for the
. “Students are buying fruits and
vegetables they can just pick up and eat on the spot.”
A second satellite market operates Thursdays in the Mazzi’s
restaurant parking lot, 3373 E. Amazon Drive.
Poynter, who grows salad greens on his family’s Hey Bayles!
Farm near Lorane, estimates that market sales will reach $2 million this
season. Vendors reported $1.5 million in sales in 2007 – the last year
the market tracked them. Since then, the market has added space, food
booths and sales days.
“All that money stays in the local community and extrapolates
out to help other businesses,” Bernard said.
, whose Authentica Wines shop is at 766 W. Park St.,
“Their food court is right out in front of my shop,” he
said. “I’m even collaborating with a couple of the vendors out
there, pairing my wines with their foods. I definitely get an increase
in foot traffic when the market opens in the spring.”
Bernard wants the market to create “a permanent structure that
would allow some indoor areas so we can vend year-round, a facility with
heating and cooling.”
Area farms produce food year-round, he said, listing
“cabbages, carrots, root vegetables, grains, milk, dairy,
meats” as local winter offerings.
“Everything you’d want to eat, except citrus, could be
produced here in the
, with the accent on the second syllable) is the region in northwest Oregon in the United States that surrounds the Willamette River as it proceeds northward from its
,” he said. “We’ve
basically been in emergency mode. But now that we’re not so busy
dealing with finances, we can think more about policies.”
That emergency mode dates back at least eight years, said Poynter,
the board treasurer. That’s when a former market president,
, first recruited him to join its board.
“He said, ‘Weird stuff is going on. I’m getting
stonewalled trying to get documents. You need to get on the board and
help me figure this out,’ ” Poynter recalled. “The
records were a mess. Taxes hadn’t been paid for 10 years – the
state was garnishing taxes from our bank account. Nothing was getting
paid on time. We went to pay back taxes and found incomplete, even
falsified records, that had not been filed systematically. We were just
about to have our accounts seized.”
They found no evidence that money had been
tr.v. mis·ap·pro·pri·at·ed, mis·ap·pro·pri·at·ing, mis·ap·pro·pri·ates
a. To appropriate wrongly:
, he and
Cooper stressed. Rather, it was not being appropriated for anything.
“There was paperwork and cash register rolls and uncashed
checks – even undeposited cash – all over the office,” he said.
“There were stacks of uncashed checks in our bank deposit
Cooper said the situation arose from “inept ness” by the
market’s former longtime paid director, Noa O’Hare, and
Lack of attention, notice, or regard.
Noun 1. inattention – lack of attention
basic cognitive process – cognitive processes involved in obtaining and storing knowledge
on the part of former board members. O’Hare first
worked for the market as its site manager, Cooper said. Then, when a
vacancy occurred in the organization’s top paid post, a former
board promoted him to handle both positions.
“He was not taking care of business, and the board was not
giving him the help he needed to do that,” said Cooper, who raises
pork on his
Farm. “I’m not trying to discredit the
board then – they all had their own businesses to take care of. But they
were not being diligent about what was happening.”
He decided to seek a leadership role, Cooper said, after noticing
what happened to checks he wrote to the organization, paying his
required fee on each Saturday’s sales.
“A lot of my checks were not cashed for six months out,”
he said. “Maybe other board members were paying in cash and
weren’t aware that business was not being taken care of.”
Bernard said he understood that O’Hare, who earned $35,000 a
year, “was asking for help, but apparently didn’t get
O’Hare, who now works for a Washington State
A method of agriculture that attempts to ensure the profitability of farms while preserving the environment.
organization, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment
for this story. Kate Penhallegon, the market board’s president
during at least some of his tenure, did not return a reporter’s
Under Cooper’s leader ship, the board fired O’Hare. It
hired the local Luvass Cobb law firm to help the market reach out
proactively to the IRS, notifying the tax agency that it had a backlog
of unpaid taxes.
“The attorneys’ approach was ‘These guys have a big
problem and they want to make it right, but they don’t want you
coming down on them with a two-ton hammer,’ ” Cooper said.
Poynter estimated that he, Cooper, Bernard and others spent as much
as 20 hours a week over the next three years, working with professional
accountants to reconstruct 10 years of market records.
With help from DeFazio’s office and the nonprofit Taxpayer
Advocacy Panel, they struck a deal with the IRS in 2009. The agency
waived penalties of about $50,000 in exchange for the market paying all
the back taxes with interest – a task finally completed with a final
payment in December.
“The past is past,” Bernard said. “We want to learn
from it, but we want to look forward.”
LANE COUNTY FARMERS’ MARKET
Sites and hours
Downtown Eugene (Eighth Avenue from Oak to Pearl streets):
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mazzi’s Satellite Site (3373 E. Amazon Drive): Thursdays, 10
a.m. to 3 p.m.
PeaceHealth Satellite Site (11th Avenue and Alder Street):
Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More information: lanecountyfarmersmarket.org