AP NEWS

Umpqua Valley Farmers Market manager Amanda Pastoria receives statewide award

March 20, 2019
Amanda Pastoria, left, works at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market in 2015.

There’s no shortage of farmers markets in Oregon.

That’s why Amanda Pastoria, the manager of the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market, was shocked when she heard she was named Oregon Market Manager of the Year by the Oregon Farmers Markets Association.

“I immediately started crying,” Pastoria said. “I was in shock that they would even consider a medium-sized market.”

Her marketing and customer service abilities, as well as her work to increase attendance at the market, motivated the association to give Pastoria the award, according to the association website.

Pastoria, who took over as manager two years ago, has worked to bring in new vendors, expand the market’s food assistance programs and promote research on the region’s food needs.

But she said she sees the award as more of a reflection of the market as a whole than a reflection of herself.

“There would be no market without the vendors and all of our friends and the community that come and visit us every week,” Pastoria said. “It really is theirs.”

“Farmers markets have many moving parts, challenges, and opportunities,” she wrote in her award acceptance letter. “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. I could not run this market without the amazing board of directors, my assistant, and our community partners who have supported every crazy idea or activity that I wanted to try.”

After moving to the Myrtle Creek area nine years ago with her family from San Antonio, she started volunteering at the Big Lick Farm booth at the market. She also started her own food business, Nurturing Your Nest, which sold organic, vegan and vegetarian products.

When she became manager of the market, she was a bit intimidated.

“But I put my all into it, was open and honest, lead with integrity, a sense of humor, and earned the trust of my incredibly talented vendors and the community,” Pastoria wrote in her letter.

Pastoria said the recent snowstorm damaged many local farmers’ products. But when the market opened for the first time after the storm, she said there was a concerted community effort to support the farmers.

“The community showed up in huge numbers for us,” Pastoria said. “The support for the farmers and other vendors who fully depend on the community for their income, they definitely put some wind in our sails after the stress of all the loss.”

She said a regular customer told her a group of people agreed to spend double the amount they normally do that week.

Pastoria said she’s ready to tackle other challenges at the market. She recently testified at an Oregon State Senate hearing to advocate for a bill that would fund the Double Up Food Bucks at farmers markets across the state.

The recently passed federal Farm Bill cut funding for the program, which doubles the value of money low-income customers spend on fruits and vegetables at the market.

Pastoria also recently secured one of five farmers market spots on a $247,000 grant through the Oregon Farmers Markets Association.

She will spend the next three years working with farming consultants and farmers in the area to collect data and identify the region’s food and agriculture needs.

The goal will be to launch customized initiatives to ensure the health of the local farm economy into the future — the average age of farmers is close to 58, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census.

Pastoria also recently agreed to become the manager of the Canyonville Farmers Market.

She said her recent achievements motivate her to keep thinking of new ideas to grow small farms in the area.

“Everybody wants to be better and everybody wants to grow and keep striving to be the best version of themselves and of their businesses,” Pastoria said.