Taste, sip Oregon’s newest local food products at Saturday event in Salem

When Hannah Sandau talks to customers at the Salem Saturday Market, they’re often surprised to learn her teas are blended in Salem.

“People get pretty excited it’s a local food source,” said the owner of Yerba Buena Tea Co.

For now, she sells her teas at the market and online, but she’s hoping to expand into stores with a boost from a food marketplace that’s coming to Salem for the first time on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The Oregon Angel Food Marketplace is in its fifth year of helping Oregon food and beverage entrepreneurs make connections and gain skills to expand their businesses. It’s a program put on by the Portland-based Oregon Entrepreneurs Network and has historically been held in the Portland area.

This year, organizers wanted to highlight a different part of Oregon, said Cara Turano, executive director of the entrepreneurs network. They looked to the Willamette Valley, where many of Oregon’s agricultural products are grown, processed and, in some cases, made into local products.

“We really like the story of economic development that is in Polk, Yamhill and Marion County,” Turano said.

The event is coming to Chemeketa Community College’s agriculture hub from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Saturday. About 50 Oregon food and beverage businesses will be on display, selling products and speaking directly with customers, as well as buyers for grocery stores and other retail spaces.

Products include chutneys, pistachio butter, pre-packaged African foods, hot sauces, non-alcoholic cocktails, granola, desserts and more.

For many businesses, it’s the culmination of a summer of classes with the entrepreneur network focused on business growth and being ready for investors.

Sandau participated in a three-day bootcamp in August, where she crafted a one-page business plan and got to practice making a pitch highlighting her business. It helped her focus on how she wants to grow Yerba Buena.

“I am passionate about tea and love the challenge of becoming a business owner and showing my daughter that women can be business owners and be successful,” she said.

The event is held in partnership with Salem’s Strategic Economic Development Corporation, or SEDCOR, which works to encourage business growth based on the region’s agricultural sectors.

“While we have all sorts of different businesses here … we’re ultimately known for what we grow and processing what we grow. To have an opportunity to really work with entrepreneurs and food entrepreneurs on our supply chain is really exciting for us,” said Erik Andersson, SEDCOR president.

Entrepreneurs at the event will have a chance to make live three-minute pitches to potential retailers, buyers or investors.

It’s an opportunity Allison Thackeray is looking forward to. Thackeray owns Dreamies Creamery, a sheep milk ice cream business that recently opened a Dallas parlor after launching last year in a food truck. She co-owns the business with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Dreamies grew out of the family’s love for ice cream and an existing dairy business that works with local farmers. 

The family services a sheep dairy and brought milk home to try out of curiosity. While sheep milk contains lactose, it can be easier for people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity to digest.

“We really loved it and because ice cream is such a passion we decided to make it into some ice cream and were amazed at how good it was,” she said. “We thought ‘This needed to be a thing.’”

They source milk from Fia Fia Farms, a Dallas sheep farm, and are hoping to expand into flavored fluid milk, Thackeray said. She’s hoping the Saturday marketplace will put Dreamies in front of new customers and help make connections to aid in their expansion.

“It’s been great to be part of this experience that’s so farm-to-table,” she said.The Oregon Angel Food Marketplace is free and open to the public to sample and taste products, as well as buy items to take home. Learn more on the event website.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.