Wallingford: Washington's Best Farmers Market of 2012!

Dinner hour at Skagit River Ranch. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons. Congratulations to your Wallingford Farmers Market! It was named Farmers Market of the Year 2012 by the Washington State Farmers Market Association at its annual conference on January 26, 2013. And here's why...

Fresh strawberries from Gaia's Natural Goods. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Wallingford Farmers Market exemplifies a farmers market that is both of the farmers and the community, and its recent move to a new park location proved it.  Since its inception in 2006, this market has always enjoyed strong support from its neighborhood, but it was not until it was forced to move from its location in the heart of Wallingford’s commercial district, at the end of the 2010 market season, that the depth of the connection between this market, its vendors and its community truly shown through.

Dominick Cura and his self-published book about living gluten-free. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

The new location – Meridian Playfield, behind the historic Good Shepherd Center – is the site of the market master’s dreams. It is the same grassy spot used for the historic Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair, an annual event that inspired the creation of all neighborhood farmers markets in Seattle. But it is off the beaten path, too, out of a direct line of site of the public.  Would the Wallingford community find it?

Chicories from One Leaf Farm. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

The Market now hosts some 50% more vendors that it did before the move, and after a strong 2011 at the new site, it added even more exciting new vendors in 2012.  These include two farms from within Seattle city limits – one just a few blocks away – a new egg vendor that increased the Market’s egg sales five-fold, a ranch grilling its own sausages and burgers, a pickle maker, a chocolatier, a Hispanic knife sharpener, and two new organic vegetable farms, one run by a young Hmong immigrant, and another run by a young Iraqi immigrant – both women. The vendor mix also takes into consideration the broader needs of our community, including having a gluten-free bakery, a vegetarian prepared food vendor, and plenty of space for local small businesses and community groups to drop in to table.  Not only are there more vendors, they are more diverse, too.

Chef Michelle Nguyen from Joule performing a cooking demonstration. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

The Market innovated and introduced the first Chefs Market in Seattle, allowing only chefs to shop the market for the first half hour each week.  A Wednesday market, it is perfect timing for chefs to stock up for the rest of the week.  They arranged orders with farmers ahead of time and picked them up at the market.  And they would pickup extras from other vendors.  The Market also implemented a new policy requiring its processors and prepared food vendors to use Washington-grown ingredients in their products.  And our local food scene became stronger.

Howlin' Hobbit performing at the Wallingford Farmers Market. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Wallingford Farmers Market draws:

  • Dozens of musicians playing in the beautiful setting, more than any other weekday market in Seattle;
  • Families that buy their groceries and maybe some bread, fruit and cheese, or a burger from the local ranch, throw a blanket down under one of the park’s apple trees, and have a picnic with local food while they listened to great local music on a pleasant summer’s evening;
  • Kids who would dance to the music or join the neighborhood scene at the huge playground adjacent to the market;
  • Throngs of locals who would belly up to watch and learn as a neighborhood chef – and Wallingford boasts many of Seattle’s best – would perform cooking demonstrations using ingredients from market vendors;
  • FamilyWorks, a longtime partner of the Market, which, at the end of each market, collects surplus produce from market vendors for the Wallingford Food Bank that total more than 5,000 pounds over the course of the season, and is combined with the benefit of a weekly volunteer harvest from the gardens of Seattle Tilth, also based at the park;
  • Neighborhood merchants and professionals who would setup at the market to promote their businesses to market shoppers as part of a partnership between the Market and the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce; and
  • A Chamber-sponsored & initiated Band in the Park neighborhood event where the community was encouraged to come to the Market, grab something to eat, and have a picnic while enjoying a big band performance, showing continued Chamber support despite the Market’s move off the main commercial strip.

Now, that's a happy meal! Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Finally, the Market, at its new location, also saw dramatic growth in traffic on its social media sites, with blog traffic now more than double 2010 levels, and it’s Facebook fan count having tripled in 2011, and doubled again in 2012, another sure sign of the dramatic support the new location is receiving from its community.

Alm Hill Gardens showing off their big heads... of lettuce! Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And to answer the question above, the Wallingford community did find it.  Young families with strollers.  Young couples.  People with their dogs.  Seniors with walkers.  Musicians, signature gatherers, groups of children from day camp in Good Shepherd Center.

This is Andrew, Your Kinfe Sharpening Guy. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

If any market was “of the community” while serving local farmers in 2012, it was Wallingford Farmers Market. Thank you, everyone in the Wallingford Farmers Market community, for helping make for a great market in the park! We couldn't do it without you. After all, it does take a village. See you on May 29th!