Speaking of Farmers Markets

Note: There’s news somewhere in this post. Hang with me.

Where but in Port Orchard is the local farmer’s market more controversial than a city council meeting? Oh, that’s right … Bremerton.

But let me not pick at old scabs.

The story we ran today — about a rule clarification for vendors at the Port Orchard Farmers Market — garnered some strong opinions in the comment section. It’s nice to know people are passionate about their vegetables.

I should mention that an e-mail we received last week, harshly critical of the farmers market, was the reason we checked into what was going on. I almost hesitate to bring this up … the contents of the e-mail that is. That would mean I’d have to mention what has become known as “the great tomato controversy.”

Let’s just say that, as we reported at the time (June 20, 2010), there was a widespread smattering of disgruntlement last market season over prices South Kitsap Helpline was asking for its tomato starts. Market officials suggested Helpline raise its prices but, as we reported, did not force it to do so.

Rumors that the dust-up turned into World War III are greatly exaggerated, market officials say.

“I want it made perfectly clear I did not receive death threats. I received some rather nasty phone calls,” said acting market manager Barbara Fangen Monday. “We just chose to not respond, because it made us look more ridiculous.”

Instead, as the Kitsap Sun reported, the farmers market membership affirmed Helpline’s right to sell on the waterfront Saturday mornings for the remainder of the season, “even though it doesn’t entirely meet the organization’s guidelines. Vendors who sell out of commercial stores are not eligible. Exceptions are allowed with members’ approval, however.”

As we reported in today’s story, the membership revisited the no-storefront rule in February and decided a clarification was in order. Period, end of story. Suggestions (including those in the e-mail) that there is a direct connection between the tomato pricing issue and the rule clarification were not substantiated by my research.

With that said, let’s move on to other farmers market news (and thanks for your patience).

Olalla will have its own farmers market this year. The Olalla Valley Farmers Market kicks off April 15 and will meet 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays in the field next to the Olalla Bible Church annex, 13053 Olalla Valley Road Southeast. The last day of the market for 2011 will be Oct. 7.

Olalla residents Sandy and Roy Denton, who helped found the Gig Harbor Farmers Market in 1991, have helped plans for the Olalla market coalesce. So far 13 vendors have stepped forward, and Roy says, the more, the better.

According to Roy, farmers markets are more and more being regarded as commodity outlets for those seeking that fresh-off-the-farm taste, not just quaint destinations for a weekend jaunt.

The Olalla Valley Farmers Market is co-sponsored by the Olalla Grange #1125, the Olalla Community Club, Olalla Bible Church and His Playschool.

Organizers will host a meeting for interested vendors at 7:30 p.m. March 17 at Olalla Bible Church. For more information, call Roy or Sandy at (253) 857-2691 or e-mail manager@olallavalleyfarmersmarket.org.

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