New managers step in as Downtown Farmers Market gets under way

By Audrey Caro

Lebanon Local

The Lebanon Downtown Farmers Market is kicking off a new season with new managers.

“We’ve been volunteering for the last three years,” said Chris Bayne, who will be managing the market with his wife Belinda. “This will be our fourth season. I super enjoy helping everybody.”

Michelle Morford, who has managed the market for eight years, is stepping down, but will be at the first few markets to help as needed.

The Baynes moved from Lincoln City to Lacomb four years ago.

“(Belinda’s) grandparents decided to move into assisted living so we offered to buy the house,” said Chris Bayne. “We bought the property and decided to pack our kids up, move on over here and try something different.”

The couple has two children at home and three who are out on their own, he said.

While the property was already primed for growing, with a greenhouse and garden space, the Baynes didn’t have farming experience.

“I was a tow truck driver and she worked at Safeway,” Chris said.

They weren’t completely on their own, though.

“My grandpa did a Master Gardener program and he really taught us a lot,” Belinda said.

They had a built-in mentor, Morford said.

“Yeah, the first year I was on the phone asking all kinds of questions,” Chris said. “I had no clue about growing anything.”

“We’re good at learning by mistake,” Belinda chimed in.

Chris agreed, “Yeah, we’re definitely professional learn-the-hard-way people.”

In their first year, the Baynes grew plant and vegetable starts, then moved on to tomatoes and zucchini.

Watermelons are now Chris’ favorite crop.

“You tried them and you got two or three and then the next year – bam – you got it right,” Morford said. “That’s the thing I like about the market. You talk to each other and learn from other people.”

Chris said he enjoys being part of the in-person social community, but is still learning the social media aspect of the job, such as posting reminders and specials on the farmers market’s Facebook page.

“Luckily, my wife has been a huge help,” he said.

The Baynes don’t foresee changing anything at the market.

“(Morford) had it pretty well dialed in,” Chris said. “To be perfectly honest, we’ll just keep going with what’s working at this time. I haven’t noticed any big changes that need to happen. Everything works smoothly.”

Two new vendors, Miss Molly Fruits and Vegetables of Albany and The Big Squeeze Lemonade Stand will be at the market this year.

Starting the second week of June through August, the market will have a program for children called the Power of Produce.

“Each child will do a fun educational activity and then receive tokens to be used at the market,” Belinda said.

This is an effort to promote healthy eating habits for young children, she said.

The market also has received a $3,000 grant from the Community Benefit Advisory and a $1,000 grant from the Samaritan Hospital Foundation. The grant money will be used to give market tokens to children ages 4 to 12 years old to be used for fruits and vegetables.

“We are also partnering with Samaritan Pediatric Clinic to get the information out to families,” Belinda said.

Morford said she is glad that people enjoy the market and that it has grown each year.

“I think every year people are excited about it coming back,” Morford said. “I think it’s really nice. It  seems to have developed into a place where people will come outside and mingle a while and chat.”

Morford said while she and the vendors are tired by the end of the season, there is an excitement when it’s time to start up again. 

“Here are all these extended family and friends that you haven’t seen half the year,” Morford said. “It feels like you’re getting reconnected again. It’s a really nice community feeling.

“I’ll definitely miss seeing the people.”

Morford will still be on the farmers market board and will help with marketing and social media outreach, she said.

“It’s nice to be able to transition it to people who have been doing the market and they’re such good helpers,” she said.

“It’s a good feeling. When you invest so much time and effort into something you want it to keep doing well and I think they’re going to do great.”

Photo by Audrey Caro
OUTGOING FARMERS MARKET manager Michelle Morford, left, with new manager Belinda Bayne, is on hand for the market’s opening day May 17.