Cho Lee gathers flowers for arrangements before the opening of the Mukilteo Farmers Market at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park in 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Cho Lee gathers flowers for arrangements before the opening of the Mukilteo Farmers Market at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park in 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Mukilteo Farmers Market will take the summer off

Organizers are seeking new volunteers, and a manager is needed to reboot the market.

MUKILTEO — The weekly Wednesday aroma of kettle corn won’t waft through the waterfront this year.

Also missing will be the booths of colorful produce, bodacious flowers and wares by crafters.

The Mukilteo Farmers Market is taking this summer off because there aren’t enough volunteers to staff it.

“People like the idea of a market, but nobody wants to commit to a market,” said market board treasurer Mimi Landsberg, a Mukilteo certified public accountant.

“In the last few years we tried to get more volunteers,” she said. “It got to the point where we only had three or four day-of volunteers we could consistently count on. My family is three-fifths of the board.”

Her son, Jacob, a law school student, is the board president and her daughter, Sarah, is director at large.

Bear Charles Summers, the market’s manager and only paid position, died unexpectedly in September, three weeks before the end of the season.

Even if there is an overwhelming response to keep the market open this year, it is too late for the 2019 season, she said.

The Mukilteo market first opened in July 2004. In recent years it has been at Lighthouse Park.

That’s also the site of the popular annual Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, which faced an uncertain future due to lack of volunteers and money. Not to worry. Plans are under way for the 2019 event in September because of people stepping up.

Landsberg said finances aren’t a factor at this point, though there was a decline in the numbers of vendors paying the $25 weekly booth rate. Booth revenue decreased 22 percent from 2017 to 2018.

“We have money in the bank,” she said.

Labor is the main issue.

The market is an event, like any other event, she said. “But this is an event that happens 18 times. An average summer is 18 weeks.”

She turned to city officials for help.

Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said the city could not take over the market.

“We don’t have the capacity to add it this year,” Gregerson said. “I think it makes more sense to be a community-run project.”

Many residents pitch in by putting signs in their yard advertising the market.

“People really appreciate the opportunity to get fresh food, talk to the farmers (and) have a festive experience down at the waterfront,” Gregerson said. “I think people will miss it. I hope that it helps get it revitalized.”

Landsberg said the market attracts nonresidents.

“A lot are on the ferry. We get people walking over from their cars. We get a lot of tourists. People come down to see the lighthouse and see the market. In the summer, people are coming down for the beach,” Landsberg said.

Last summer’s food stamps program Fresh Bucks required getting ZIP codes from shoppers. Of these, few were Mukilteo residents, she said. “These are people following the farmers markets to get the food.”

Even with the decrease in booths, she said, there were about 30 to 35 setting up shop at the Wednesday market.

“A portion were crafters, not farmers. And another portion were food vendors. We had a bakery, kettle corn; in summer, frozen yogurt and Hawaiian ice.”

The market was able to use the space at no cost through a grant, which also covered a limited number of free parking spaces. “A nice perk,” Landsberg said.

Otherwise, nonresidents would have to pay to park.

Landsberg said volunteer duties include more than monitoring the spaces, lending a hand to vendors and running the information booth.

“Three years ago we started participating in a program that allows (food stamps) patrons to swipe their EBT card at a machine and get tokens for it,” she said. “We had to have a volunteer at the booth at all times. It had to be monitored at all times.”

Landsberg closed her accounting office every Wednesday to be at the market.

“We had to think twice about when we were going to take vacations,” she said.

Even then, she’d get a phone call that a volunteer didn’t show up. “I’m halfway across the country. So I’m calling in every favor I have to get somebody, anybody there to help.”

A stable crew of volunteers and a market manager are needed for the market to reopen in 2020.

You don’t have to be there all five hours weekly. Two hours every other Wednesday will do the trick. Bring along your high school kid to do face-painting. That’s how Landsberg’s daughter got started.

The market’s website and Facebook page remain active.

“We’re doing everything we would normally do behind the scenes,” she said. “Except we’re not going to run the market.”

Andrea Brown: abrown; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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