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Farmers market marks 10 years of fresh foods

 

The Gypsy Rows school bus farmer – his name is Darren Wright – will be back with his fresh fruits and veggies at this year’s Mukilteo Farmers Market, which opens June 3.

The Mukilteo Farmers Market, which opens next Wednesday, is celebrating its 10th season.

This year’s farmers market runs June 3 through Sept. 30 from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, 609 Front St. It features just-picked fruits and veggies, freshly made snacks and goodies, and handmade arts and crafts.

“It’s fresh food like you’ve never tasted,” said Anna Tink, a market volunteer. “A head of lettuce that lasts two weeks, carrots straight out of the ground, and sun-ripened strawberries that were picked that day.”

A bus shuttle picks up and drops off shoppers every half hour at the corner of Third Street and Loveland Avenue.

Eden Trenor founded the market in 2004, a nonprofit organization that networks to provide foods fresh from the farm to fellow residents.

The first market was held on the baseball fields of Rosehill Community Center. It featured about 15 Washington farmers and other vendors.

“I shopped there every Thursday,” Tink said. “I loved it.”

When Trenor moved out of state in 2005, many of the market’s fans tried to re-launch it for a third season in Harbour Pointe – but it flopped because nobody shopped – so it was canceled after just three weeks.

“We were forced to close because nobody shopped,” Tink said. “I don’t know if it’s because it was at Harbour Pointe, or what.”

In 2007, volunteers re-launched the market at the community center, changed the day to Wednesdays to better fit farmers’ schedules – and it’s been a staple of Mukilteo summers ever since.

When the former community center closed for demolition in 2009, the market moved again to Lighthouse Park. It proved to be the change volunteers didn’t know they needed: The number of shoppers skyrocketed.

“We saw a definite increase in sales,” Tink said. “Since 2008, we’ve had a 148 percent increase in shoppers.”

The number of farmers has also grown throughout the years: It fluctuates week by week but, these days, the market averages about 40 vendors. All of them are from Washington state.

“We try not to have too many vendors with the same product,” Tink said. “We have one pit vendor, we have three berry vendors. Several of them are the actual farmers, which is really nice. You can talk to the farmer.”

The farmers market depended on city grants in its fledgling years, but it is now self-sufficient. In fact, any profits from the farmers market go back to the community through its own grants.

In the last three years, the market has awarded $1,300 in grants in support of a student’s college tuition to study soils and to support the Mukilteo Community Garden beds that grow fruits and veggies for local food banks.

“We thought that there was good synergy between our market proceeds going toward nourishing the community,” Tink said.

In addition to grants, it also sponsors booths, holds drives and hosts trivia contests with the community in mind.

One of the two free booths it offers is for the Master Gardeners to answer shoppers’ plant questions, the other is a rotating nonprofit booth where, each week, volunteers are invited to spread the word about their organization.

Past featured organizations included the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, Japanese Gulch Group, Mukilteo Community Garden, Cocoon House, Soundside Marinelife Rescue Center and Mariner High School’s Horticulture Club.

“I first started at the farmers market painting faces as a fundraiser for the Lighthouse Festival back when it was still at Rosehill,” said Sarah Landsberg, a market volunteer.

“I really like the organization. Everyone who’s involved in it is happy to be there. It’s fun because we’re all hanging out at the beach in the summertime.”

The market also collects donations for the Mukilteo Food Bank and used batteries for recycling. Last year, volunteers collected $229 in donations for the food bank and 180 pounds of dead batteries.

It also promotes the recycling of paper bags with a Take a Bag, Leave a Bag bucket of bags for shoppers.

“It’s like the penny thing,” Landsberg said. “Sometimes we hide a nice farmers market bag inside the bucket.”

Its “I Spy at the Market” contest asks one trivia question per week about fruits and vegetables. The first person to get the answer right wins a prize. Stop by the market’s information booth or Facebook page for more.

For a list of all vendors and nonprofit organizations featured at this year’s market, go to http://www.mukilteofarmersmarket.org or email mfmorg@mukilteofarmersmarket.org.

Want to ride the shuttle? Park at one of the Rosehill Community Center lots, at 304 Lincoln Ave. Wait for the bus near the shuttle sign at the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue between 3-7 p.m.

Shoppers may also park for free at Lighthouse Park in the limited spaces reserved for the market.

If those spaces are filled, as of June 1, all other parking at the park is $2 an hour for non-residents. Mukilteo residents with a parking pass may still park for free.

Don’t have a parking pass? Pick yours up at the information booth on June 3.

 

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