By Kari Bray Herald Writer
STANWOOD — The Port Susan Farmers Market recently landed a two-year, $99,990 grant to move to a larger location and launch several new programs.
The market is moving from Viking Village off Highway 532 to the parking lot behind the downtown police station at 8727 271st St. NW. It’s scheduled to open with about 30 vendors June 3. Up to 50 vendors can fit in the new space, compared to a limit of 35 vendors in past years, market manager Leslie Collings said.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying for improvements to parking, storage and electricity along with an update to the portsusan.org website and new signs and flier materials for the market. Coordinators are focused on reaching low-income families and seniors in Stanwood and on Camano Island. Benefits such as food stamps and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program can be used to buy food at the market, Collings said.
A chef’s tent and children’s area are being added to the market this year using the grant money.
The “Chef at the Market” tent is for hosting cooking demonstrations.
“We’ll have a chef there every week who will shop from what is available at the market and prepare recipes using those ingredients,” Collings said. “Market shoppers can try free samples, get the recipe and buy the ingredients and do it at home.”
The “Sprouting Healthy Kids” children’s area is meant to be a hub for children’s activities and healthy eating lessons, Collings said. Children can be tasked with completing a produce scavenger hunt among the booths or a “Meet the Farmer” questionnaire, where they interview the farmers about their livelihood.
“We did the questionnaires last year and the farmers loved it,” Collings said. “The kids had fun and the parents had a lot of fun watching their kids interact like that.”
Children can learn where their food comes from and how to find healthy, tasty snacks. Presentations are planned about honey bees and dairy farms, Collings said.
This is the Port Susan Farmers Market’s fifth year. It’s scheduled to be open from 2 to 7 p.m. every Friday from June 3 to Oct. 14. Last year, the market drew an average of 900 people each week. Peak season for fresh produce is usually July through September, Collings said.
The new location has room for vendors to park near their booths, saving them set-up and clean-up time. It also has better traffic flow and parking access for customers. The new spot is closer to downtown businesses and Collings expects the shops to see more customers Fridays.
Though the larger space allows for more vendors, Collings doesn’t want the market to grow too quickly. Increases in the number of vendors and the number of customers need to keep pace with each other to keep the market going strong, she said.
“I don’t want people to expect this big huge market,” Collings said. “It’s more about supporting our vendors and our customers with added space and accessibility.”
The Port Susan Farmers Market is a nonprofit and the volunteer board of directors has set a limit of 30 percent non-food products, Collings said. That means seven out of every 10 booths at the market feature food, including fruit, vegetables, eggs and bread. The market also has wines, fudge, kettle corn, barbecue sauce and other prepared foods. There are locally made crafts and clothes, as well.
Along with shopping there, people can support the Port Susan Farmers Market by becoming a member, sponsor or volunteer. Go to portsusan.org or call Collings at 360-202-3932 for more information.
“People might hear the word ‘grant’ and think that the community support isn’t as important for the next two years, but the grant is structured to do specific things and it can only pay for those specific things,” Collings said. “The general operating budget of the farmers market will always need the support of the community.”
Special events, speakers and a ribbon cutting are planned for June 3, the market’s opening day at its new location.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.