Farmers market season is nearly here
Photo courtesy James Berntson
Radicle Roots farmers Allie Leiser, Pete Temrowski and James Berntson show off their brussel sprout loot at their farm just outside Snohomish city limits. Radicle Roots will sell organic vegetables at the Snohomish Farmers Market for their fifth year this season.
Markets could experience post-COVID growth spurt
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Coronavirus has created many challenges for small businesses, but farmers markets have seen an increase in support during the past two years.
Three area farmers markets are opening for the season in coming weeks, with Snohomish and Everett starting May 5 and May 8. Market managers hope that the new customers and vendors who found them during the pandemic will be back, resulting in more vibrant markets than ever.
While the markets did see an increasing amount of support during the pandemic, other challenges were presented in the form of mask mandates, customer capacities and social distancing.
Just like other local businesses, it was challenging for the market managers to navigate the restrictions. The Everett Farmers Market became drive-thru only, which reduced business, while other less restrictive markets were experiencing some of the largest numbers yet.
“We actually became busier because of COVID. So many things were shut down and canceled so we saw a huge boom of new shoppers and vendors,” said Janelle Drews, who is Monroe’s market manager and the director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
Lockdown canceled many events such as trade shows and craft fairs. Because farmers markets were still open, they were able to gain some new vendors that normally would not be there.
“Some of the vendors who had canceled events joined in on farmers markets, and they said, ‘this is so much fun, we are going to be back for next year,’ and will be returning to the market instead of their regular trade shows,” said Drews.
In the first year of the pandemic, the Everett Farmers Market became a drive-thru market for the 2020 season and limited the number of vendors to around 12. The market has fewer vendors compared to pre-coronavirus years but is working its way back to normal.
Gary Purves, the Everett Farmers Market’s director, said their main goal for the 2022 season is to try and get back to where they were before coronavirus and establish a sense of pre-pandemic normality.
The upcoming farmers market season offers a diverse array of new vendors and fan favorites returning for another year.
Black Forest Mushrooms will have their debut season this year at the Snohomish Farmers Market. Owner Nathanael Engen spent his time in coronavirus lockdown testing out different plants and vegetables to base his business on and became fascinated with mushrooms.
“Where the timing was at and because I didn’t have a designated launch date, it really gave me the opportunity to focus on the craft,” Engen said.
You Are What You Eat Fish Company, a mom-and-pop seafood seller from Snohomish, will sell fresh sustainably caught fish that they catch on their family boat, St. John II. The small business is a branch of the commercial fishing company that has been with their family across four generations.
At the end of a fishing trip, they buy back a small portion of their catch from larger fish companies which they then sell in the markets. You Are What You Eat Fish Company can be found in the Monroe, Snohomish, Stanwood and Arlington farmers’ markets.
The Brown Pecan will be back selling fresh candied pecans. On their first day selling at the Monroe Farmers Market, they sold out within just a couple of hours.
The Monroe Creamery will be at the Monroe Farmers Market for the first time, selling farm-fresh eggs and milk.
Whackadoodles & Wanderlust will also be new at the Monroe market this year, and they will be selling unusual jewelry and other decorative items made from upcycled materials, mostly spoons.
Ananda Farm is a community-based, all-natural, no-till farm based on Camano Island. They are both a farm and a yoga ashram which they say allows them to enhance their spirituality while farming.
“We all practice yoga and meditate together and that spiritual piece is at the heart of our farm,” said Hailey Abbey, co-manager of Ananda Farms.
This year, in addition to fresh produce, they will be selling plant starts to help people grow their own plants and produce at home.
Some of the new vendors at the Everett Farmers Market include new artists, candle makers, and a certified organic farm called Cabrera Farms.
One important aspect of the markets is that they offer small, minority-owned businesses, a place to succeed. Radicle Roots Farm is queer-owned, and The Brown Pecan is Black and female-owned.
The market managers have worked to make farmers markets inclusive for shoppers as well by arranging to allow SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, allowing those who qualify to redeem benefits at farmers markets.
The program allows SNAP qualifiers to have access to healthy, farm-fresh foods and gets more customers comfortable shopping in an outdoor environment.
“You can get produce at the store but it’s so different when your lettuce lasts three times longer in your fridge and it’s local,” said Drews.
Farmers markets also provide a focused space for farmers and artisans to test out selling their products to the local community, many referring to the markets as a “business incubator.”
“I’m hoping that if these vendors succeed in Monroe, they’ll eventually want to open up a brick and mortar in Monroe,” said Drews.
The Snohomish Farmers Market has had six of its vendors open permanent stores in the past eight years.
Organizers say part of the reason that the markets survived the pandemic so well is because of the commitment of the people in the market community.
Vendors collaborate and help each other with setting up booths, sharing events and resources and have created a welcoming environment.
“We call it a vendor family,” said Sarah Dylan Jensen, the market manager of the Snohomish Farmers Market. “We are really lucky to have such a busy, thriving market on a Thursday night when most weekend markets are seeing the crowds that we see.”
Jensen said that managing a farmer’s market can be challenging, but she loves the service it provides to the community.
“Right around 3:05 when we are open, everything has come and fit into place, gone exactly or not exactly as I planned it, and I see the smiling faces that are coming in and buying flowers and berries and jewelry, I think that’s the best part,” said Jensen.
Market times and addresses
- Everett: The Everett Farmers Market will start May 8 and is every Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with early shopping for seniors and high-risk shoppers starting at 10:30 a.m. The market will run through Oct. 30 and is located at 2930 Wetmore Ave.
- Monroe: The Monroe Farmers Market will start May 25** and is every Wednesday from 2:30-7 p.m. through Sept. 1. It is located in the parking lot of Galaxy Theatres Monroe off of North Kelsey Street.
- Snohomish: The Snohomish Farmers Market will start May 5 and is every Thursday from 3-7 p.m. through Sept. 29. It is located on Union and Glen avenues in Historic Downtown Snohomish.
In the April 20 story previewing area farmers markets and in a related photo caption in the print edition, it was written that the date the Monroe Farmers Market opens is May 26. This Wednesday afternoon market will open Wednesday, May 25. The Tribune regrets the error.
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