West Olympia Farmers Market
The sun was bright on the canvas tops that covered the vendor stalls at the West Olympia Farmers’ Market one Saturday morning when I stopped in. A handful of stalls displaying local produce, handcrafts and artisanal foods are set up in the parking lot each Saturday morning between Woodruff Park and Garfield Elementary School on Thomas Street. My plan was to meander, chat with producers and photograph the stalls for about 20 minutes. I ended up staying for over an hour.
This is a true neighborhood market, a tiny gathering of Olympia-based producers, many of them located on the Westside. But small doesn’t mean less abundant. Market products include local vegetables, eggs and flowers, artisanal foods, clothing and handcrafts. The most popular stand may be the knife- and tool-sharpening stall by Ion Ecobuilding.
One Westside vendor is Diane Carney of Township 18 Farm and Learning Center, an egg and poultry farm located on Kaiser Road.
Carney says she jumped at the chance to be a market vendor. “When I first heard about it I thought, ‘This is so important, I want to be involved.’ ” She says the neighborhood-scale market gives smaller producers, who may not have enough produce or product to have a stall at the big downtown market, to sell directly to the public. Lower fees and a one-day commitment also make market sales more attainable for small producers.
The first stall I stop at had storybook vegetable displays. Green and purple beans were spilling out of a basket. Tomatoes were lined up on a shelf, vibrant and plump. The faces of crinkly Savoy cabbages are tilting skyward. I chatted about produce and food photography with the display maven, Brenna Mae Thomas-Googins from Sunbreak Farm, as she sprayed down the zucchini and cucumbers.
At one point she handed me a Sunbreak tomato, bright yellow and bigger than my fist, and told me its history: the seeds originated in Scotland and traveled to Germany where Aaron Varadi, one of the farm’s owners, encountered them. This is why I buy local, I thought. I’d never find this tomato in a grocery store, much less learn about its history and path to this very stand.
At the Daisy Chain CSA stall, Sue Lundy was talking with a customer as she arranged a made-to-order bouquet. Daisy Chain’s Web site explains that a weekly share of their flowers is “an alternative to chemically intensive, destructive floricultural practices.” The flowers were indeed fresh and varied: I saw black-eyed Susans, dahlias, sunflowers, sweet peas and whole buckets of flowers I couldn’t identify. And I hear she’s added something new to hang in the kitchen through the fall: garlic braids interwoven with flowers.
Other stalls are just as creative and locally focused. You can buy hand-felted toys made from the wool of local sheep at Beverland, sample shots of sauerkraut brine (mixed to order!) at OlyKraut, purchase handmade jewelry and clothing at Scribble and Scrap or pick up a gluten-free cookie for the road from 8 Arms Bakery, among others.
The market is also home to re-skilling workshops through Transition Olympia Climate Action such as mending, chicken coop construction, cheese making and tool sharpening that will resume in May when the market opens for the 2012 season.
The West Olympia Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through October 29th. The market welcomes inquiries from potential vendors and musicians (they encourage busking and also have slots for scheduled performers). Information can be found on their Web site and Facebook page.
For more photos of the West Olympia Farmers’ Market, click here.