Competitive market

EVERETT — It’s farmer’s market season on the Everett waterfront.

Farmers arrived with their trucks and tents Sunday for the start of a season that should last until early October.

Since the market started in 1994, it’s grown from a few vendors to more than 75 and moved to a prime position on the waterfront off West Marine View Drive.

The market’s managers this year also have expanded the market to another location at 899 N. Broadway on Fridays.

Market manager Inger Hutton is excited the market can now accept credit and debit cards and food stamps, rather than just cash.

With all that’s going right, there’s one dark question mark looming in the market’s future. What’s going to happen when another, bigger market opens in downtown Everett?

The waterfront market managers are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I feel like it’s McDonald’s on one corner and Burger King on another,” Hutton said. “Whenever they start a new hamburger chain the others just accept it. It could be mutually beneficial.”

A local developer plans to build an indoor, year-round farmers market on Grand Avenue just south of the Everett Public Market building. Officials have said it could open as early as late spring 2012.

A nonprofit group of area farmers plans to run the market. The 60,000-square-foot agriculture center would offer fresh crops for sale but also be a place those veggies could be turned into products on-site at commercial kitchens and a processing facility.

The market would also be a distribution hub. Farmers would be able to load those products directly onto delivery trucks and would ship them to local stores and beyond.

City and county officials have planned for a farmers market for years. County leaders hope it will revitalize and support farming in Snohomish County. The city wants to create a vibrant, walkable downtown and keep more local dollars here.

The market already operating on the waterfront wasn’t included those plans, Hutton said.

Hutton, along with her husband Tone Hutton, bought the market in 2002 and run it privately. They lease the land the market sits on from the Port of Everett and charge vendors a flat fee to sell their wares.

It’s not clear if the vendors at the current market will stay at their location or choose to move over to the new market when it opens, she said. Some farmers have told her they prefer to be outside.

What is clear is there are a growing number of markets in the area competing for a limited number of farmers.

“It’s hard to find farmers,” Hutton said. “They are committed to certain markets already and they can’t spread themselves too thin or they wouldn’t have time to work at the farm.”

Farmer Nate O’Neill sells vegetables at several local markets, including Everett’s. He runs a 10-acre family farm near Conway called Frog’s Song.

His preference, he said, is to sell directly to customers outside.

He’s found markets located in beautiful locations near busy places such as ferry landings are able to draw the kind of foot traffic that makes it worthwhile for him to attend.

Sometimes, indoor markets can end up housing more crafts and value-added products rather than actual veggies and fruits, he said. That’s not the best environment for his business.

“I like the tents and the … festival atmosphere,” O’Neill said. “That’s what truck farming is about.”

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com

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