Farmers Market Increasing Offerings

Posted 4/23/15

After a successful season last year, the Yelm Farmers Market is excited to offer even more to its customers starting next month.

The market will open for its fourth season on Sunday, May 31. …

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Farmers Market Increasing Offerings

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After a successful season last year, the Yelm Farmers Market is excited to offer even more to its customers starting next month.

The market will open for its fourth season on Sunday, May 31. Returning for her second year as market manager is Karen Rae, who has been hard at work this winter finding ways to improve the customer experience and create a sense of community.

She was most excited to talk about the Power of Produce program for children ages 5 to 12 with the goal of involving children more in food decisions. Kids can sign up at the market for free and will receive a reusable bag, a badge and a passport to be stamped every time the child attends the market. Additionally, each child will get $2 in POP tokens every Sunday they visit the market that can be used to buy any fruit, vegetable or plant that grows food.

“It’s just this whole opportunity for kids to not only experience food choice, making those food choices ... but also with money,” Rae said. “The interaction with the children with the vendors as well, that they actually get to talk to the people that grow their food and talk about how it’s grown, it’s really a big part of what the market was designed for.”

This program has been successful at other farmers markets, she said, and children are delighted to get the opportunity to make their own food choices. Not only does it cause kids to try new vegetables their parents might not think they would eat, another side benefit Rae brought up is that children are saving their money up over a few weeks or pooling it with their siblings to make a large purchase.

“It’s really empowering,” she said. “Parents are thrilled with it.”

Involving children in this way, Rae hopes they will see it as their market as well, not just mom’s and dad’s market, and will get kids looking forward to the trip. The program is being launched with $5,000 in initial funding, and Rae is confident local businesses will chip in and sponsor it as the season progresses.

“We would love to have sponsors that can see the benefits,” she said. “It’s a seriously awesome program.”

Ironically for Western Washington, the biggest problem at the market last year was not rain, but heat. To solve that issue, this year vendor’s tents will be located on the grass field instead of on the pavement. This change will also allow for the creation of a totally new area that will have tables and chairs, live music, and prepared food vendors where marketgoers can take a break and soak in the environment.

“What we always wanted is that (the farmers market is) not just a place to come and shop, but a place to relax and enjoy community and food and nature,” Rae said.

Fruit vendor John Fardell and the honey vendor are two popular returnees for the 2015 season, and will hopefully be joined by Troller Point Fisheries, so long as the company can find someone to run the booth. Rae also succeeded in getting a beer and wine tasting license, so she is looking forward to having guest breweries or wineries join the market.



After adding debit and Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, payments last year, this year the market will also accept Woman, Infant and Children, or WIC, checks for fruits and vegetables and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, or SFMNP, checks.

Also returning are the business booth for weekly rental at $40 and the nonprofit booth for those who want to take advantage of the more than 600 adults Rae estimates will attend the market each week. Anyone interested should contact Rae.

Overall, Rae is planning for 30 vendor booths operating during the peak of the market season, an increase of five from last year. She is still accepting applications for vendors and will be holding a vendor meeting on Thursday, May 7.

Though the market was founded by the Yelm Cooperative, the parent organization that also oversees the Yelm Food Co-op, this may be the year that the cooperative no long subsidizes the market as it is able to stand on its own through financial support from the community.

“The Yelm business community is constantly talking about the value of the farmers market and wanting to get it back into the city,” Rae said. “The YC got it off the ground, but now it’s for the community to ... help it.”

While she knows holding the market within the Yelm city limits would make it more accessible for those who do not own a vehicle, Rae does not see a site that is big enough with the same level of visibility as its current home at Nisqually Springs Farm on state Route 507 that meets the Yelm City Council’s requirements.

“I think everyone ideally wants it back in the city, and yet this is so beautiful,” she said. “It has to be better.”

Glenn Schorno, who purchased Nisqually Springs Farm from his father this past year, enjoys having the market at his family’s third generation farm.

“It think it’s a wonderful way for people to experience farming in a natural, hands-on setting,” he said. “I see it as a way to help other farmers and come together and work together. The farmers come in and we build a synergy. We build something that people can come to and have a lot of choices.”

With a year of experience under her belt, Rae has realized the farmers market season is like organizing 22 events. When asked what her goals are for 2015, she does not talk about reaching a dollar amount in sales or revenue or even an average attendance figure. Her vision is to create an open, welcoming community atmosphere centered around healthy, fresh food choices.

“I see it as a destination where people want to go and be, they love the experience of being at the market, and there’s a whole lot of interaction with vendor to customer and vendor to vendor and customer to customer,” Rae said. “It certainly was starting last year. ... That sort of symbolizes to me a thriving community. We’re interacting and supporting each other on every level.”

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