By Jennifer Crain
When you drop by your local farmers’ market for a dozen eggs on your way home, they’re likely to be multicolored with thick shells and Technicolor yolks. If you pick up two bunches of baby bok choy while you’re there, they were likely picked that morning.
Among the many reasons to buy food grown and produced locally, quality like this and the accessibility of neighborhood shopping top the list. A few other dynamics are set in motion when you buy that grass-fed steak or handmade gluten-free cookie. The dollars not only stay in the region, but go straight to your neighbors. Buying local also prunes your carbon footprint.
But there’s something even simpler that makes regular visits to your local market worthwhile: variety. Small vendors and farms often don’t produce enough goods to secure a bin in the produce aisle or a spot on the shelf. Or their goods are too fragile to withstand the storage necessary to make an appearance at the grocery store.
That’s good news for market goers, who get not only fresh goods but interesting ones as well. A national grocery chain, after all, isn’t set up to carry native plants or tender pea shoots.
Thanks to the rising popularity of local foods, neighborhood markets are becoming more common. That makes it easier for all of us to support local, get to know our farmers and eat some of the best quality and most innovative food around.
Market enthusiasts have been hard at work coordinating with food producers in more areas of the county. Check out these Thurston County markets and get the freshest food available in your zip code.
Lacey Community Market
What: The market carries a large variety of wares produced by about 85 vendors each month. There are several farmers with seasonal produce along with a variety of food processors, artists, crafters, collectibles, and food vendors.
Sharon Kagy, who has been managing the Lacey market for six years, says, “It’s been a lot of fun watching it grow and evolve. It’s become a true community marketplace.”
Where: Huntamer Park, just off College Street SE at 7th Avenue in Lacey.
When: Second Saturdays in July, August and September from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Payment: Cash. Other payment methods available through some vendors. No EBT.
Special Events: Themed market days. July 13, Home and Garden Day. August 10, Heritage Day. September 14, Pet Day. Market days include live music and entertainment and speakers and demonstrations to fit each month’s theme.
Web: Visit the Lacey Community Market page here.
Shelton Farmers Market
What: Over thirty vendors, including bakeries, farmers, a honey vendor, a seafood vendor, coffee roaster, Sage Bookstore (serving coffee and foods), artisanal crafts, a face painting and a community farm booth. Live music and entertainment every weekend.
Market manager Brenna Woslum says, “This form of the farmers market was started in 1997 by my mother, Deborah Woslum, and her friend Karen Olsen, who is now the owner of Radiance. We’ve been in the current location for over seven years.”
Where: 3rd Street between Cedar and Franklin Streets.
Payment: Cash, credit, debit and EBT accepted.
When: first Saturdays, May through September, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Special Events: Harvest festival in September. Annual dance showcase on June 29.
Web: Visit the Shelton Farmers Market site here.
Tenino Farmers Market
What: According to their website, the Tenino Farmers Market combines fresh local produce, plants and hand-crafted products with music, workshops, and community outreach. The market was established in 2005.
“Shopping at a farmers market,” they say, “benefits farmers and producers directly, offering you more unique products, more heirloom varieties, and more opportunities to build relationships and learn about healthy eating.”
Where: Tenino Elementary School, 301 Old Highway 99 North at the corner of Old Highway 99 and Garfield Avenue
Payment: Cash, SFMNP and WIC coupons accepted. Check with vendors for other payment methods.
When: Saturdays, June through September, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Web: Visit the Tenino Farmers Market site here.
Tumwater Farmers Market
What: Several large farms sell produce, including Kirsop Farm and Stoney Plains. They also have an organic fruit vendor and two protein producers providing grass-fed beef (Colvin), poultry and eggs (G&H). Baked goods are available from 8 Arms Community Bakery. For lunch, there are three prepared food vendors to choose from. This year the market has a Kids’ Zone with activities for children
Connie Allison, Tumwater Farmers Market manager says, “Our market has abundant, quality farm products combined with a playful and welcoming community of people.”
Where: Southwest corner of Israel and Capitol in Tumwater. Parking is accessed off Capitol and Tumwater Blvd.
When: Wednesdays, June through October, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Payment: Cash. Credit, debit and EBT accepted.
Special Events: Throughout the season several special events are hosted at the market, including three animal related events and two art events.
Web: Visit the Tumwater Farmers Market site here.
West Olympia Farmers’ Market
What: With a focus on young and beginning producers, the market a wide variety of products for sale, including fresh produce and eggs, bakery goods, pastured meats, sauerkraut, coffee, cold-pressed soaps, kitchen crafts, and their popular knife sharpening service.
Kayla Mahnke, who manages the markets in both West Olympia and Yelm, says, “We love the Westside neighborhood and community for making every market a fun, family-filled atmosphere. Many shoppers come to the market on their way home from work and pick up super fresh, local ingredients for dinner.”
Where: Behind Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 1515 Harrison Ave NW.
When: Tuesdays, mid-May to mid-October, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Payment: Cash. Several vendors accept credit and debit cards.
Web: Visit the West Olympia Farmers’ Market site here.
Yelm Farmers Market
What: Back for its second season, the Yelm Farmers Market carries fresh, local, and seasonal produce, pastured meats, eggs, baked goods, native plant stock and local crafts. Yelm Farmers Market is a program of Yelm Cooperative, a local non-profit organization that focuses on education and access to healthy, local food options.
Kayla Mahnke says, “We are proud to offer a weekend farmers market for the greater Yelm area and hope that community members will come out and support our local producers!”
Where: Nisqually Springs Farm (Shorno Agri-Business), 17835 SR 507 SE in Yelm, between Stewart’s Meat Market and the Nisqually River.
When: Sundays, June 9th to the end of October, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Payment: Cash only.
Web: Visit the Yelm Farmers Market site here.