The Country Meets the City

Coop de Villa chicken coop

Photo: Julia Ozab

The country meets the city at Eugene’s newest farmers market

BY DAVID OZAB ON JULY 6, 2011

New downtown market scheduled Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. through mid-October

In the shadow of the I-105 northbound on-ramp, a semicircle of tables sits under a canopy in a fenced lot at 5th and Washington in downtown Eugene.

On the tables, piles of green, yellow, and purple produce await the arrival of hungry customers.

Eugene’s newest farmers market is open for business. The Urban and Community Growers Market is starting off small, but Bill Bezuk, also known as The Eugene Backyard Farmer, is thinking big.

“We have another farm coming out next Sunday and hopefully on the following Sunday we’ll have a total of four farms.” Next Sunday will feature more produce, but after that Bill’s hoping to widen the selection. “I’m working with the people who do Northern Lights Christmas, they also do (Hideaway) Farmers’ Market at Mazzi’s and they’ll do the meats. And then hopefully we’ll get a nice cheese monger to round things out.”

With his business situated in a former auto shop, Bill is blessed with “a huge parking lot.” After sitting empty for a year, he wanted to do something with it “so having a farmers’ market makes a huge amount of sense.”

The lot is large enough to accommodate all the planned vendors with plenty of parking space to spare, but its central location has advantages as well. “A lot of of the people in the neighborhood are on foot,” Bill explains. “And a lot of people don’t want to park at either Saturday Market or at Mazzi’s.”

Eggcentric Gardens tent

Photo: Julia Ozab

Eggcentric Gardens, a local husband-and-wife-team homestead, is Bill’s first vendor, and their wide selection of fresh eggs and vegetables offers something tasty for everyone.

Co-owner Cory Fulton describes his mouth-watering selection to a customer: “Three different varieties of beets, we’ve got spinach and orache, which is this tasty purple stuff here. I believe it’s related to spinach. We’ve got a variety of summer squash, which are now very small but next week we’ll probably have a very large pile. Sugar peas, of course, a little bit of oregano, and some fresh green garlic.”

The customer pauses to take in the aromas. The oregano and the garlic smell wonderful together. Then Cory continues his appetizing sales pitch:

“A variety of kales, collards, lots of wonderful chard, and several varieties of lettuce. Oh and some fennel just came in as well.”

Like all farms, Eggcentric’s offerings vary over the course of the summer. Cory’s wife and Eggcentric co-owner Susan Oldland describes some of their future offerings: “Later this season we’ll have a lot of heirloom tomatoes and lots of different kinds of potatoes and squash and melons and lots and lots of cucumbers.”

And, of course, the eggs. Susan describes them as “Wildly free range pampered hen eggs.” Located on an acre of property on Franklin Road just outside the city limits, Eggcentric Gardens has four roosters and fifty-one hens, which means lots of eggs. And they’re not just good for cooking and eating. Susan is an herbalist, and uses some of the eggs to make a medicinal skin salve.

(Correction: Cory dropped me an email after this story ran in MyEugene explaining that Susan developed her herbal salves in part to treat their chickens. The salves are not made from eggs. I added that correction in the comments.)

“It’s good for rashes, bug bites, and eczema. A friend of mine uses it . . . It seems to help a lot.”

All these wonderful offerings might tempt shoppers to start their own backyard gardens, and Bill’s ready for them.

“My customer is strictly the backyard urban farmer. The person who has three, maybe five chickens, a bunch of raised beds, maybe some fruit trees.”

Townhouse chicken coop

Photo: Julia Ozab

Everything the budding backyard farmer needs can be found in Bill’s shop. A variety of books on gardening, backyard homesteading, raising chickens and small livestock, plus gardening supplies, organic poultry feed, chicken feeders, bedding made from recycled newspaper, rainwater harvesting barrels made by Grady Barrels, and, of course, chicken coops.

Bill sells a supply list and plans for the Marie’s 5th Street Townhouse chicken coop for $25, or will custom build one for $700. Another option is the Chicken Gardener’s Chicken Tractor–an A-frame movable coop that houses three to four hens and costs $375 for the standard 4 by 6 foot model and $495 for the expanded 4 by 8 foot model. Wheels on one side are $50 extra and there’s a $20 delivery charge. Larger and custom coops are available directly from the Chicken Gardener.

Three chicks

Photo: Julia Ozab

The hatchery is located behind the shop. This room is worth a visit even for those not looking to buy. Currently six different breeds of baby chicks make their home here–all of them adorable, of course. All breeds are well-suited to Oregon’s wet, cold winter climate, all are good egg layers, and many are docile enough to be raised as pets. Bill sexes all the chicks, but since sexing chickens isn’t an exact science, he can’t guarantee that all his chicks are female. He advises city residents to be prepared for this possibility, as roosters aren’t allowed in the city limits, and offers advise on how to relocate an unwanted bird.

Outside the shop, potential customers can see what their urban homestead might look like. Bill keeps two yards furnished with coops and hens. The coops are kept open so the hens are free to roam about their respective yards.

The Urban Farm Market is open every Sunday from noon to three through mid-October. The Eugene Backyard Farmer is located at 501 Washington Street (the southeast corner of Fifth and Washington). Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

UPDATE: MyEugene.org ceased operations in May, 2012. The site is down and currently for sale. I have reposted my complete articles on this site.  (11/6/2012)

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