Markets cultivate community, farms

Katie Kowalski, arts@ptleader.com
Posted 2/21/17

Martin and Charlotte Frederickson of One Straw Ranch joined the Port Townsend Farmers Market last year, selling grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken and quail eggs, and wool.

“The …

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Markets cultivate community, farms

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Martin and Charlotte Frederickson of One Straw Ranch joined the Port Townsend Farmers Market last year, selling grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken and quail eggs, and wool.

“The market has become a large part of our sales, and has allowed us to expand our production,” said Charlotte, who grew up in Chimacum.

“It has brought us wonderful customers, who continue to support us outside of the market season.”

A flourishing fixture of the community, the Jefferson County Farmers Market organization – which includes two markets in Port Townsend and one in Chimacum – today boasts about 80 vendors, many of which have grown into the successful businesses they are today thanks to the markets’ support.

“The market has been a huge help,” said Karyn Williams of Red Dog Farm, who started at the market in 2005 and runs the thriving 23-acre farm in Chimacum. “From the beginning, I felt like the community welcomed us with open arms.

“There were a lot of other farms, and we all just gradually got better,” she said of the past decade that she’s been involved. “I love the market, it’s so wonderful, and I’m really looking forward to this April, when it kicks off again.”

UPTOWN VENUE

The Jefferson County farmers markets – which in the summer season draw more than 2,500 each Saturday, with 500 per week on busy Sundays and Wednesdays – are becoming increasingly recognized statewide as culinary and arts destinations, said Amanda Milholland, who is entering her second season as market director.

“The quality and diversity are really outstanding.” Milholland said of the vendor’s products.

“The arts culture is another really important part,” she said. “Our community really values the arts, and values the artisan food.”

The Port Townsend Saturday Farmers Market began 25 years ago in a windy lot downtown, and after several location changes moved to its current Uptown District setting in 2003.

“It really just took on a new life when it moved uptown,” said Milholland, who recalls that the market became a more significant part of her family’s life when it moved. “It became much more central and visible.

“The numbers of vendors grew substantially at that time,” she added.

Soon after the move, the Wednesday market was founded, and in 2008, a Chimacum market began, which Jefferson County Farmers Market took over in 2010.

“[The market] is something that has allowed many local business to take off,” said Milholland.

“It allows people to try out something and see what will work in this community.”

And of course, farmers markets are all about community.

“Our community is the judge of what businesses are the right fit,” Milholland said.

FRESH FOOD FOR ALL

The direct sales between market shoppers and producers benefit the local economy by increasing the amount of money that stays in the community, Milholland said, and market patronage supports local jobs and strengthens the local food system.

The market also helps low-income shoppers gain access to the fresh, local food through its food assistance program.

“Anytime a low-income shopper comes to the market with their EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] card, WIC [Women Infant Children] card or Senior Farmers Market Nutrition, we provide matching funds, so they’re all getting more local, fresh, healthy food when they shop at the market,” Milholland said.

Last year, the market provided more than $13,400 in matching food assistance dollars to nearly 400 low-income shoppers through the Gimme5 and Fresh Bucks programs. Since 2013, it has provided $58,000 in matching food assistance funds.

While Fresh Bucks is funded by a small USDA grant, Gimme5 is supported entirely by local businesses and community members, Milholland said.

“Our local community is telling our local community: We want everyone to have access to local, healthy food,” she said. “It’s a super-powerful message.”

The goal for the upcoming season is to provide $15,000 in matching funds. “We’re really excited to continue growing [the program] in the next several years,” Milholland said. “I think there’s so many more people we can help.”

LOOKING AHEAD

The 2017 market season kicks off at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 1 in uptown Port Townsend. The community is invited to attend opening day, with its popular goat parade, and to write “love letters” to the market in honor of its 25th year.

There are a few changes in store for the new season.

This year, the produce offered is to be 100 percent local, Milholland said. In the past, farmers could sell out-of-county produce; for example, fruit from Wenatchee or corn from an eastern Washington farm. This presented a disadvantage to local farms that couldn’t compete, Milholland said.

Now, all the produce is to be locally grown.

“It will give people a sense of what we grow here and what’s seasonal,” explained Milholland.

Another change for the new season is that market musicians, whose music helps imbue the market with a festive atmosphere, are to be paid.

In past years, musicians were funded by donations from vendors. “This year, we’ve decided we want to show our value of local and regional musicians by providing a stipend,” Milholland said.

Music is going to be offered weekly at the PT market, and monthly in Chimacum.

On the non-performance days in Chimacum, Milholland is inviting buskers to play.

Finally, this year Jefferson County Farmers Market is considering new locations for the Chimacum and Wednesday PT market.

“Both of those farmers markets are at a place where there’s room for them to grow,” Milholland said.

“Our goal is to identify potential new locations for the 2018 market season.”

For more information, visit

jcfmarkets.org.

(Editor's Note: This story part of Peninsula Proud: Leader Progress Edition, published in The Leader on Feb. 22)

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