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Snohomish Farmers Market hits 30 seasons of freshness on May 6

Doug Ramsay file photo

James Bernston of Radicle Roots Farm, a small outfit in Snohomish, displays radishes and other produce during the 2020 Snohomish Farmers Market.

SNOHOMISH — Opening day for the Snohomish Farmers Market on Thursday, May 6 kicks off its 30th season of providing the community farmer-grown food and handmade goods with the laidback atmosphere of browsing neat things.
This year’s market will be back downtown to line Cedar Avenue at First Street. It will run Thursday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. until the end of September.
Reaching this milestone, though, has a story to tell.
Old ads winked that the market offers “full-contact shopping”: A way to meet the producer from your own community. 
Past market managers confided jokingly that it is like “herding cats” behind the scenes.
Two friends in Snohomish, Rick Wertz and Dennis Lebow, wanted to host live music, and in 1992 set up an evening market and performance space in front of the gazebo at First Street and Avenue A, prior manager Marie Brayman said. She was a jewelry vendor when they asked her to become manager the next year.
Wertz stuck around to help guide the market for its first few years, Brayman said.
The fun is meeting the customers, said Neil Landaas, who created Flying Tomato Farm in Snohomish and managed the market for four years. “To me, that was the magic of the farmers market.”
Landaas, who started as a salmon vendor, ushered in putting farmers and
hyperlocal food front and center.
His successor, Karen Erickson, was selling upcycled plastic bags as a vendor before taking the reins.
Erickson has a passion to ensure all people have access to local food. So, in 2010 she jumped to let farmers take SNAP food stamps and senior vouchers using a market token system. The board hesitated, she said, but these are key to food access.
Brayman said her focus was to empower people to be vendors and pursue what they love.
Some vendors set up booths near the beginning who are mainstays. Among them are Darlene Griffiths with her baked goods, silversmith Jan Fox, Frontier Flyers Honey, Mari Ostermann’s jewelry outfit, and Tom and Ann Muchoney’s rugs weaved from fabric, managers recalled. All are area locals.
“You’re encouraging people to shop in your town,” Erickson said, which Snohomish has been great about. “It’s that community vibe,” she said.
This year’s market has 100 vendors signed up, which is a new high, said current manager Sarah Dylan Jensen. 
Growing the market slowly is by design, and positive word-of-mouth attracted the robust variety today, Dylan Jensen said. There will be meat sellers, crafters, cideries, soapmakers, fruit and vegetable hawkers and new this year, a carnivorous plant seller.
This opening day might see a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark 30 years, she said; the coronavirus still shadows public events.
Today’s newest vendors might have been sparked by COVID-19, Dylan Jensen said. The downtime made people pause to explore their dreams, she said.
At one time it was like the Wild West, Landaas said. 
It took figuring: What’s homemade? What’s farm-fresh? There was friction when people who trucked in out-of-state vegetables to sell were turned away, Landaas said. Brayman concurred: “We had to take a lot of grief - people wanted to sell their flea market goods and imports.”
Farmers markets saw a national renaissance in the mid-’90s, but they also ebb and flow, observed Brayman, who is today volunteering to resurrect a farmers market in Northern California.
The market reached a similar height of 90-plus vendors in the 1990s, Brayman said.
While this is about the 15th year by the Carnegie, it also is the market’s fifth location.
It never strayed from downtown except 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to locating on a wide-open lot gifted by Stocker Farms.
Shortly after the first market, it moved to in front of the Iron Works by First Street and Avenue D, and then two blocks west to a dirt lot.
Landaas credited former city manager Larry Bauman with helping him get the market to its current home about 15 years ago.
The importance is that it is not a competitive arena, but a cooperative group, Dylan Jensen said. It is a family, and to grow it, “it really does take a village.”




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