Kitsap farmers are in nascent discussions about a year-round
farmers market in the county.
At a Monday night meeting of the Kitsap Community and
Agriculture Alliance, Nikki Johanson of Pheasant Field Farms
kicked off a discussion among the roughly 30 attendees.
As farmers market seasons close up for the witness, she said,
she’s increasingly heard vendors and customers wonder aloud where
to go next for their local foods.
“People want local food … and they want it more than x-amount of
months,” she said.
KCAA President Marilyn Holt said that additionally, for a
commercial farmer to make it, the farm needs to be selling for 48
weeks out of the year. The farmers who don’t likely have to find
additional sources of income.
Currently, most markets close in October. Poulsbo has a
one-weekend Thanksgiving market and Bainbridge Island reopens its
market in a new location in mid- to late-November and stays open
for another month.
Year-round farmers markets exist elsewhere in the Puget Sound
region. There is, of course, Pike Place, but also Ballard,
University District, West Seattle, Port Angeles and San Juan
downtown Everett, a developer plans to build a 60,000
square-foot agriculture center to house a year-round farmers
market, and will include a commercial kitchen and processing
facility The facility will anchor a 180-unit housing project. A
nonprofit group of farmers will operate the market, which
developers hope to have open for the 2012 season.
Some markets like Port Townend’s and Olympia’s are open until
Christmas, which some at the meeting suggested may be a better
option for Kitsap.
And what’s sold at these markets isn’t just soaps and jams,
though the producing of the latter has recently been made a little
easier with the passage of a
cottage food bill in Washington .
The winter offerings are, of course, not nearly as abundant as
what’s offered in the summer, but farmers are able to bring in
squashes and root crops and dried fruits and vegetables.
And let’s not forget that animals are raised on farms, too. One
farmer said she saw plenty of poultry at West Seattle’s market. For
the same to happen in Kitsap, though, farmers would likely have to
find or create a facility (possibly a mobile one) to process
Johanson said that additionally, she’s had success with hoop
houses, which could allow her to have marketable produce in
February and March.
But many questions remain.
Questions such as: Where would the market go? Would there be a
single space or would it be better to extend the seasons of several
markets? Would the market(s) be truly year-round or is it better to
lengthen the season to, say, Christmas? Would there be enough time
after planning to plant crops to harvest this winter? Can you draw
enough customers? Would there be a high enough proportion of
farmers to meet Washington State Farmers Market Association
guidelines (and thus gain the benefits that goes with being a part
of the association, such as insurance)?
And, importantly, would enough farmers be willing to extend what
can be an exhausting work year?
That last question is one group members hope to address
They’ve asked farmers market managers — Bremerton and Poulsbo
markets were represented at the meeting — to poll their vendors and
will go from there.
And until I hear those results, I’m going to do a little polling
of my own and, as always, please comment away.
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