Snohomish Farmers Market manager ‘upcycles’ materials into eco-friendly items

SNOHOMISH — Snohomish Farmers Market Manager Karen Erickson has been collecting ideas from vendors across North America.

Now she’s putting the final touches on her latest brainchild, “upcycled” bags for carrying berry boxes. Erickson plans to introduce them at the Thursday market this year. It opens for the season today in downtown Snohomish.

Erickson, 60, wants to rid the world of plastic shopping bags so they don’t end up floating in a Texas-sized mess in the ocean. Environmentally preferable cloth also doesn’t leach chemicals into food.

She uses the material of old coffee bean sacks to create bags that can accommodate berry boxes.

Straps are placed for hand carrying, instead of shoulder use, so people can tote other items in their regular cloth bags.

“It’s perfect,” Erickson said.

She’s also designing a “bigger berry box bag” for those who wish to double up without spilling the fruit. They’ll be unveiled around the start of berry season in early June.

“I’m an ongoing inventor of stuff like this,” Erickson said. The California native settled at the Snohomish market nine years ago as a vendor after traveling the continent, teaching people to sew.

“I needed a place to sell my recycled goods,” Erickson said. “I thought a farmers market would be perfect because the people who shop there are usually of like mind.”

She sews all kinds of clothing and useful wares using plastic bags. Clothing is made by quadrupling the thin plastic and melting the layers between tissue paper to create fabric.

“I was even in an ‘upcycling’ fashion show,” Erickson said, showing a skirt and vest set. (Upcycling refers to converting a product or material intended for one use into something else.)

She also crochets eco-friendly items such as hats and water-bottle satchels, again using plastic grocery bags.

After a couple seasons as a vendor, Erickson moved up to market manager. She’s been running it rain or shine for the past seven years.

The rest of the time, she teaches sewing at 3231 Creatives in Everett. The downtown spot houses artists who collaborate in the shared space. That makes the location ripe for finding local wares, much like the farmers market.

“I’m always encouraging people to find something they can take apart and use,” she said. “It takes you out of the box.”

From Brooklyn to Santa Monica, Erickson has gleaned ideas from other places and employed them here. A kids club at an Oregon market sparked her interest in starting one in Snohomish. This year, it will include seasonal snacks and activities beginning in June.

The market is set to handle EBT food stamps, credit and debit cards.

“That’s important because we encourage people to shop local,” Erickson said.

Musicians are lined up to play for the market crowd at Pearl Street and Cedar Avenue.

Erickson, who has a background in photojournalism, plans to take pictures and post them on the market’s Facebook page and Twitter account.

The market expects to have up to 55 vendors selling local produce and crafty wares this season.

“You’re not going to find any goods that weren’t grown or made in Washington,” Erickson said.

The market opens at 3 p.m. Thursdays through September. The 7 p.m. closing time is extended to 7:30 during the summer. It shortens to sunset as the days grow shorter near the end of the season.

“Everything’s always changing,” Erickson said. “That’s the thing about being a market manager, you’ve got to roll with the punches.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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