Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market

Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Andrea Capere sat down with Peter Lesser, Laurie Wilcox and Michael Olson, board members of Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market to talk about their mission.

The Olympia Farmers Market is a public partnership between the Port of Olympia and the City of Olympia and is run by a board consisting of vendors and hired staff. The Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market is a nonprofit formed in 1995 to help preserve the Olympia Farmers Market as a place for the community to gather that promotes healthy food, locally produced goods and local, sustainable agriculture. “One of our primary missions is to raise funds from the public in order to benefit the Market for the benefit of the community, and to reduce the burden on the City of Olympia,” explains Lesser.

The Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market goes above and beyond the needs for the Market when it comes to giving back to the community. The Robert J Meyer Organic Farming Scholarship is for college tuition and other college costs for local individuals who have an interest in organic and sustainable agriculture. “We lost one of our longtime farmers quite a number of years ago, Robert Meyer,” shares Wilcox, “and when he died the family wanted to have a scholarship fund to honor him. So that’s one of our main goals now, is raising money for that and we’ve helped some kids get their education in farming, sustainable things like that within the community.”

Some of the scholarship recipients have come back to the Farmers Market. The owners of Oly Kraut and even the current manager of the Olympia Farmers Market were scholarship recipients, as well as kids whose parents have been selling at the Market for years.

They also give out grants to other small local nonprofits that support their mission of healthy, local food and sustainable agriculture.

Local businesses support the Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market and help by sponsoring things like the music during the Market, fundraising events and with monetary donations. WSECU, Little Creek Casino Resort, Squaxin Island Tribe, Olympia Federal Savings, Nicholson & Associates Insurance and Heritage Bank are all sponsors. Individuals in the community are also big supports through donations and volunteering.  The Port of Olympia also helps with funding and putting on their annual fundraiser, which happens the third Tuesday of every August.

The event, The Taste of the Market, brings together 24 restaurants with their favorite dish for you to try. “Last year I think there was close to 400 people that came and bought tickets to the event,” says Olson. “The restaurants use at least one, sometimes more, of the products from the farmers at the Market.” There are also raffles, giveaways, wineries, breweries and music.

“It’s a very fun event,” adds Wilcox.” It’s like our major fundraiser of the year and it’s also a big party, we get to show off the market, get it all cleaned up – tables with linens – it doesn’t even look like the Farmers Market.”

“It’s just members of the community all being together, it has a nice feel to it,” says Lesser. “You’ve got the Market all fixed up with white tablecloths and the best restaurants in town and you know local wineries, local breweries, cider, music, and people just like to sit around and visit with each other and there’s those fabulous raffle items. The people who come to this event love the market and now they’re helping make the Market that much better.” Raffle prizes include Puget Sound cruises, season tickets to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and more.

To learn more about the Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market, watch the above video, and visit the Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market website. For more on the Olympia Farmers Market, visit their ThurstonTalk Channel or the Olympia Farmers Market website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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