It’s farmers market season in Vancouver

The Vancouver Farmers Market kicked off its 30th season in March, continues to thrive

Farmers Market
Since its opening weekend March 16 and 17, the Vancouver Farmers Market has a strong start to its 2019 market season. Courtesy of Vancouver Farmers Market

The Vancouver Farmers Market officially kicked off its 30th season the weekend of March 16 and 17, and despite the always-changing weather each weekend, the downtown market has continued to bustle with the activity of vendors, visitors, children and pets every since the beginning of the season.

This year, the market is being held in a new location just two blocks from the intersection of Esther and Sixth to Esther and Eighth in downtown Vancouver. According to a news release from the Vancouver Farmers Market, the new configuration will provide additional space for the market’s 180 vendors as it expands to portions of Eight Street, and gives visitors a “pedestrian-friendly space where they can shop, relax and play in Vancouver’s downtown core.” This is only the third time that the market has relocated in its 30-year history.

The Vancouver Farmers Market features a wide mixture of vendors, including farms and nurseries; wineries and breweries; those selling savory foods, meats and baked goods; homemade jams, jellies and pickled items; all-natural pet treats; and handcrafted items like jewelry, garden art, wood art, soaps, hand-knitted and crocheted items, and so much more.

Now in its 30th season, the market supports local growers, artisans and small-business owners by providing space for more than 180 vendors who sell their products during 88 market days each year across three different markets in Vancouver. Each new season brings massive traffic to the market’s main location in the downtown core. Attendance can reach 15,000 on peak days, and in 2018 alone, the market attracted some 357,000 customers.

A complete list of the vendors participating in this year’s market, and the dates they are participating, can be found here: https://www.vancouverfarmersmarket.com/vendors.php?page=meet.

Candy and Murray Falk, owners and operators of Grandma Candy’s Jams in La Center, have been operating their black raspberry farm and participating in the Vancouver Farmers Market for 23 years. Candy said their granddaughter and her husband now operate the booth at the farmers market while she and Murray focus on sampling at stores.

Grandma Candy’s Jams is a naturally sustainable farm, using only natural fertilizers and water from their own well system. They don’t use any artificial sweeteners in their products, and all of their fruits and berries are grown, processed and labeled locally. Candy and Murray hire high school students from La Center High School as their pickers, and the students “look forward to each season and our farm is a local favorite to work for.”

“Over the years we have seen an increase in sales and have built a regular customer base,” Candy said. “Many visitors buy a jar of our sugar-free jam and reorder, and we ship to many areas of the United States. Our sugar-free, no artificial sweetener spreads are suitable for diabetics, which account for many of our customers.”

Blackbird Alchemy
Blackbird Alchemy, which offers a variety of vegan, gluten-free cookies and desserts, is just one of more than 180 vendors that participate in the Vancouver Farmers Market. Courtesy of Blackbird Alchemy

JoJo Reily, owner of Blackbird Alchemy, is currently participating in her third season as a vendor at the Vancouver Farmers Market, although she said she also worked for other vendors for three seasons prior.

“I love the farmers market community and I feel honored to be able to serve my local community by selling there,” Reily said.

Blackbird Alchemy offers a variety of vegan, gluten-free cookies and desserts.

“My business has increased every year,” Reily said. “I do sell vegan and gluten-free baked goods that actually taste good though. More and more people are becoming vegan and gluten-free as well.”

A fairly new vendor to the Vancouver Farmers Market, Christina Carpio, owner of Haole Girl Bread Co., is participating in the market for her second year. Christina and her husband previously owned Da Kine’s Café, a Hawaiian café that they sold in 2015. Although the restaurant is now retired, Christina continues to make her Hawaiian sweet bread from the recipe they developed and perfected at the café.

“I love interacting with the market goers and sharing my products,” Christina said of participating in the farmers market. “This year has brought an amazing increase in sales for us with the new market configuration. Last year, we were at the west end of Sixth Street, as we are a Saturday-only vendor. This year, we are on the east end of Eighth Street at the north end of the park – a much better location overall.”

According to market organizers, the market’s move is the latest in a series of growth phases that began in early 1990 after Michael Posey, a local grower, attended a meeting sponsored by the Washington State Farmers Market Association. Convinced Vancouver could support a market of its own, Posey contacted members of the Vancouver City Council who stepped up and provided support to help the market get off the ground.

In August 1990, the farmers market opened to an excited crowd at its original location on Broadway and Sixth. After a few years, market leaders began searching for a bigger and better location, and soon set their eyes on space adjacent to Esther Short Park. The market eventually moved to its current home in 2000 as part of a multi-phased plan pioneered by then-mayor Royce Pollard to spur development in the downtown core. The market has operated in its current location ever since.

“Esther Street was designed specifically as the market’s home base with built-in utilities like plumbing and electrical for vendors,” Vancouver Farmers Market Executive Director Jordan Boldt said, in a news release. “It was also built without curbs so visitors can easily walk on and off the street. That’s just one example of the commitment the city has made to continue supporting the market and downtown Vancouver. It’s one of our greatest assets and has allowed the market and downtown to prosper over the last decade.”

In addition to its positive economic impact on the local economy, the market also offers volunteer and donors an opportunity to help foster a healthier community through the Vancouver Farmers Market Foundation. Last year, volunteers donated more than 1,000 hours of service while also providing more than $60,000 to low-income families to purchase healthy local food.

Vancouver Farmers Market

Downtown Market Season, intersection of Esther & Eighth
March 16-Oct. 27; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
East Vancouver Market Season, 17701 SE Mill Plain Blvd.
Dates TBD – Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Franklin Street Market Season, 1300 Franklin St.
Dates TBD – Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
More information: https://www.vancouverfarmersmarket.com/

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.