It’s that time of year again in Seattle: The sun is out, and so is the produce. Local, seasonal markets are opening up all over the city, and the markets in Queen Anne and Magnolia are no exception.
The Magnolia Farmers Market began in 2003 as one of the seven Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance markets. The alliance started with the year-round University District Farmers Market, and supporting local farms and farmers has been its primary goal ever since, said Chris Curtis executive director.
The Magnolia Farmers Market (West McGraw Street and 33rd Avenue West) starts this year on June 7 and will open every Saturday for 18 weeks, closing Oct. 11.
On opening day, the Magnolia Garden Center (3213 W. Smith St.) will give a gardening demo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Magnolia Library (2801 34th Ave. W.) will host a storytelling from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and PK Dwyer will provide music from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The farmers market tries to have different entertainment each week, like a story time for the kids and buskers and musicians. It also has special events each year that families look forward to, such as the Cherry Pit Spit contest on July 5 and the Zucchini Car Races on Aug. 9.
Curtis expects the market to have an average of about 32 vendors this year, up from 28 last year. Because the market starts a little later this year, berries and cherries will be in season, she said. There will also be all of the market favorites like fresh fruits and vegetables, pastries, prepared food and wine.
The market has a couple new farms coming in this year selling produce, meat and eggs. It also has a pie place called 314 Pie, which sells sweet and savory pies. Mystery Bay Seafood is coming in with chowders and seafood dishes made with local seafood. Timber City Ginger Beer will bring its new, local beer. There are also three new preservatives places coming in with jams, jellies, pickles and sauerkraut, and two new wineries.
The market has a knife-sharpener, who will sharpen knives and other blades while people shop.
Flowers are also a big part of any market, as is prepared food so people can eat while they shop. This year, the market will have El Chito’s handmade tamales, Patty Pan Grill’s veggie quesadillas and Caravan Crepes with sweet and savory crepes.
People shopping in the market can use their EBT card and the Fresh Bucks program, which the alliance started two years ago and is now citywide. The program matches every $10 of EBT spent on fresh produce with another $10 in Fresh Bucks to spend at the market.
The market has changed locations a few times before organizers were finally able to get permission to close McGraw Street and have a central market. Since then, it has seen 25-percent jumps in shoppers each year. On average, about 1,900 people attend the market every Saturday, totaling 34,000 people over the season.
“It has grown leaps and bounds,” Curtis said.
The market has a “steady group of loyal weekly shoppers,” Curtis said. “It’s a place to sort of connect and slow down. We don’t have that many opportunities to do that now.”
The Queen Anne Farmers Market (West Crockett Street and Queen Anne Avenue North) is the only independent farmers market in Seattle, run by local people for the last eight years.
It opens this year on June 5 and closes Oct. 16.
Opening day has several different events, such as the traditional radish race at 4 p.m. for kids 13 and younger. There are also two concerts: Patchy Sanders, from 3 to 5 p.m., and The Ramblin’ Years, from 5 to 7 p.m.
There will be 50 vendors at every market, with a handful who rotate. There will also be five wineries and four food trucks rotating through every week. The vendors rotate to make sure there is a good balance between the types of food and raw ingredients or prepared food.
There are new farms and new food trucks coming in this year (check the website at qafma.net for a list of which vendors will be there each week). The market will also offer wine tasting all season long, featuring local wineries.
The market’s theme for this year is “Dig Into Community,” said market spokesperson Maggie Cuevas. The theme is a call to action to “bring neighborhoods from all over together to build a stronger community.”
At the market this year, there will be a kids’ activity at the event tent. There are also cooking demonstrations and entertainment at every market.
The market relies on donations from neighbors and sponsors from local businesses to sustain itself. Organizers also collect fresh food to donate to local food banks; last year, they collected 5,200 pounds of food.
The number of visitors and vendors has been growing steadily. The market had a 1,000-visitor average in 2010, and that was up to 3,900 last year.
Food access has become a priority, said market manager Hannah Hathaway. The market accepts EBT cards and Fresh Bucks, as well as WIC and the equivalent for seniors. This year, it’s partnering with the Queen Anne Food Bank to bring in some of the people it serves to get them acclimated to shopping for fresh produce in a market environment, Hathaway said.
The market has become the “new town square in an urban setting,” Cuevas said; it’s a place to see your neighbors, listen to live music, entertain your kids and shop.
There has been a lot of momentum in recent years, and it seems to be getting more solid and larger as time passes, Cuevas said.
The market’s organizers recognize that it can be challenging to find fresh, accessible produce, so they want to keep that as a cornerstone moving forward.
“It’s really a labor of love,” Hathaway said, “and it’s run by volunteers.”
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