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The first outdoor Corvallis Farmers Market of the year was a bustling event early Saturday with nearly 50 vendors stretching through downtown streets packed with people.

By contrast the first Albany Farmers Market of the year, held at the same time, was much more intimate, with 15 vendors and a light crowd.

Although the Corvallis market was larger, Albany's is older, and it celebrated its 40th season by giving out 250 cupcakes.

“This market is the oldest market in the state,” said Aliesje King, manager for the Albany market, adding that its smaller size was part of its appeal.

“Here we all recognize each other," she said. "It’s really fun.”

But more than that, she said, it also makes the market a place for people of different political persuasions and backgrounds to interact positively.

“In a time when there is so much that separates us, politics and demographics," she said, "none of that matters here. I can’t stress enough how important that is now. We can all unite on food.”

King said by mid-summer the market will have more than 30 vendors and she’s always hoping more people come out to enjoy it. However, she said Saturday's was the best first market of the season she’s seen in her three years with the event.

Matt Easdale, who worked the Albany market stand for Albany-based cheesemaker La Mariposa, said it offered a great opportunity for the company to inform people about their products.

“If you just have it on a shelf somewhere people may not know who you are. Doing a farmers market is a lot better way to get word of mouth out,” he said.

Rebecca Landis, who runs both mid-valley markets, was at the Corvallis market Saturday. She said the turnout and vendor numbers were sizable, considering that this year's market began a bit earlier than normal.

“It feels good to be back in our regular place after so many months of not seeing each other, including our customers, who are our extended family,” she said.

While Corvallis has an indoor market during the off-season, Landis said it’s smaller and many customers and vendors return with the start of the outdoor season. She said no two markets have the same exact vendors as the previous week and more vendors come in as the season gets warmer.

“It gets better week by week,” she said.

Landis was excited about one of the market's new vendors, Royal Riverside Farm, a small Albany dairy selling pasteurized, but nonhomogenized, cow's milk. While the market has sometimes offered goat's milk, it hasn't had cow’s milk during her tenure, she said.

“I’ve been wanting to have dairy at the market since 1995, since I’ve been managing the markets, so that’s a big deal,” she said. “This is a more mainstream product (than goat’s milk) that people are interested in.”

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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