Farmers market = summertime in the Valley
June 20, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
There were plenty of new faces in the vendor booths opening day at the North Bend Farmers Market, with just as many reasons why they chose to sell their wares at a market where Mount Si hovers in the background.
Andrea Jensen, a full-time nursing student who lives in North Bend, started her Ekernal Bliss kettle corn business a year ago.
She said she’s been hitting fairs and festivals for the past year, but decided to give a farmers market venue a try.
“It’s right here in my own town,” Jensen said. “So I figured, ‘Why not?’”
Kristen Raney is another hometown woman who figured she’d try her hand at the farmers market scene, selling planters she created using recycled cedar wood.
She’d left her director position at a wellness center to be a stay-at-home mom.
Raney said she’d watched her father create birdhouses, shelves and furniture and decided to give it a try.
“Basically it’s a creative outlet for me,” she said, adding that when she amasses more tools, she’ll be able to offer more than garden planters.
But the simple boxes were pretty good sellers, she said.
“And I’ve already gotten two custom orders,” Raney said.
She said she’d always loved attending the North Bend Farmers Market and she’s thrilled to now be a part of it from a vendor’s perspective.
Some vendors, however, travel great distances to sell in North Bend, but it was usually a strategic decision.
Cenovio and Kathy Meraz, owners of C&K Fresh Produce from the Yakima Valley, made a last-minute decision to sell in North Bend because they were already selling at the Sammamish market on Wednesdays.
“We drive by here all the time, so it just made sense,” Kathy said.
After selling their cherries, asparagus and Walla Walla onions in Sammamish and North Bend, they’ll drive back to Sunnyside to resupply before heading to the weekend market in Vancouver, Wash.
Hitting multiple markets is the name of the game for several vendors, including Dawnelle Dutcher, founder of Pompeii Woodfired Pizza in Woodinville.
She regularly attends five markets a week, and added North Bend to her schedule at the tail end of last season.
Dutcher said she decided early on that it was to her advantage to “go where the people are instead of waiting for people to come through your door. It also gives me the freedom to pick and choose where I want to go.”
She said she loves the atmosphere of an open-air market, but her customers also get the advantage of watching a pear and gorgonzola pizza being fired up and ready to go in 60 seconds flat.
Bill Barchaw, owner of Swauk Prairie Produce out of Cle Elum, said several things made North Bend an attractive market option: it’s less than an hour’s drive, it’s midweek so he can still attend markets in Roslyn and Ellensburg, and it’s an afternoon market, which allows him to sleep in.
Barchaw’s entry into the farmers market realm was a happy accident. He’d retired from a facilities management position in Bothell, and moved to the Swauk Valley with his wife Val in 2006.
“We started a home garden back then, but it just kept growing and expanding until it became farmers market-sized,” he said.
In addition to the Certified Natural Grown produce, the couple sells eggs from their “17 happy hens” and jars of pickles.
Nobody gets into the farmers market business to become millionaires, he said.
“We’ll be happy if we cover our gasoline expense,” Val joked.
“I do it because I enjoy chatting with the people,” Bill said. “Also, when someone takes a bite of our pickles and says, ‘Wow! I love this!’ I never get tired of hearing that.”