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Come Thru in SE Portland aims to be a more inclusive farmers market

On the warm asphalt in front of a large red warehouse in inner Southeast Portland, Allinee “Shiny” Flanary, founder and director of Come Thru Market is chatting with vendors as a DJ plays energetic music nearby. It’s a few minutes after noon on a Monday, and Flanary has been there for hours.

Come Thru, which takes place the first and third Mondays of every month between May and October at The Redd on Salmon Street, isn’t just a biweekly market; it’s also a small business incubator with a training program supporting farmers of color as they build their brands.

For the vendors who have set up stands there, it’s an important element to their success.

Barry Bronson, who has owned pasta company Esotico for about a year and a half, said the support from Come Thru has been helpful to his growing business.

“It was a tough year,” Bronson said from behind a table lined with bags of pasta, oils and sauce. “But we are solid on our feet now.”

His pasta is now in several stores in the Willamette Valley.

“The future looks really bright,” Bronson said.

Flanary created Come Thru in the summer of 2019. At the time, Flanary was in a farmer apprentice program and she decided to put in a small farm stand market at the Oregon Food Bank’s Unity Farm on Northeast 33rd Drive.

Flanary wanted to lower the barriers to entering farmers markets for Black and Indigenous farmers, makers and healers.

“It takes a tremendous amount of money to get into a market,” she said. “Markets are inherently racist spaces, so they’re not very welcoming. And then you’ve got to do all the work of pushing your product, of course.”

Flanary pointed out that farmers markets “generally indicate that a neighborhood has been or will be heavily impacted by gentrification and displacement.”

Farmers markets can be racist at every level, she said.

“Markets in historically Black Portland neighborhoods have relatively few Black shoppers and even fewer Black vendors,” she said. ”Market managers are complicit in maintaining this racist culture. We select vendors who sell foods that white families prefer. We craft arcane and complex application processes for vendors and privilege applicants who write well in English. We work with boards of directors where there is no transparency and no equity policy in place. We select music and entertainment acts that are comfortable for the culture of whiteness.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way, she said. With Come Thru, Flanary is trying to change the systems that keep people out.

“Anyone can join us in this mission,” she said. “That’s why our training program curriculum is available for free on our website. That’s why I teach multi-hour workshops about creating anti-racist farmers markets. You don’t need to run the Black and Indigenous market to run an anti-racist market. You just have to want to make a change.”

The market on Northeast 33rd was a learning experience, Flanary said.

“I was able to put in a little market out there,” she said, “but promptly realized, ‘Oh, there’s more to it than just getting everything up.’”

Those things included getting products out in the marketplace and talking to customers. And location. The Northeast 33rd location was not working for the market Flanary envisioned.

“We were not transit-accessible. We were not foot traffic-accessible. We weren’t getting shoppers of color, which is who we really wanted to be there for,” she said.

So when people from Ecotrust reached out in June 2020 to see if she would be interested in launching her market in two weeks at The Redd, she said yes.

Now the market is in its second summer at the site. The program helps guide small business owners through the process of getting into farmers markets and what comes next. Currently, the market supports 38 vendors.

“We’ve always been the incubator market,” Flanary said. “We’ll work with you at whatever stage your business is in and try to help you find the…

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