By Laurelle Walsh
The first Methow Valley Farmers Market of the 2014 season opens on Saturday (April 12) at 9 a.m.
The valley’s longest-running weekly market is based at the Methow Valley Community Center parking lot off Highway 20 in the heart of Twisp. This season boasts 29 markets, from now until closing day, Oct. 25.
Items for sale vary over the six-month season, and range from produce, cut flowers and potted plants to handcrafted rugs, blown-glass ware, log furniture and duct tape wallets. Food vendors tempt shoppers with tamales, fresh juices, kettle corn and pastries. Community groups educate and instruct; and live music provides a festive backdrop to market day.
Market Master Willie Getz expects 20 to 25 vendors at Saturday’s opening market, with a preponderance of crafts and some prepared foods for sale, he said.
“If we’re lucky we might get some early fresh produce from a greenhouse grower,” Getz said.
Farmers “really start showing up towards the end of May,” said Getz, who has been market master for over 20 years. “And then it comes on kind of like a tornado when the produce really starts coming in.”
The busiest markets of the year generally coincide with July 4 and Labor Day, which average around 60 vendors and “lots of visitors,” Getz said.
The market maintains strict criteria that “promote and encourage the development of local, sustainable agriculture, food processing, and artisan crafts,” according to its mission statement. This limits market vendors to the sale of locally produced and handcrafted items.
Per the Methow Valley Farmers Market Handbook, produce must be grown by the farmer selling it; prepared food must have been processed by the seller; nursery plants must have been in the care and possession of the vendor for at least 60 days prior to selling; and vendors must reside in Okanogan County a minimum of six months per year.
Out-of-area or “guest” vendors may be approved by the market board if they bring unique or otherwise unavailable products for sale, and are limited to two market days per year.
Market policy also requires that craft items be made by hand, not from kits or commercially available plans.
Services such as knife sharpening and massage are considered by the board on a case-by-case basis.
A packet of documents, including the market’s policy handbook and vendor application, was mailed out to prior years’ vendors in February. Market stall fees have doubled this year to $10 for a full stall, and $5 for a half stall, children under 16, seniors 66 or older, and community groups.
Due to high winds that have been known to gust through the market grounds, a new policy this year requires that vendors’ canopies be secured by weights — a minimum of 25 pounds per leg — tied to each of the canopy’s legs.
Vendor applications, market policies and weekly updates may be found at www.methowvalleyfarmersmarket.com.
The market is making an effort this year to create “a more user-friendly connectedness,” between the commons and the vendors’ area, Getz said. “We’re trying to create a more obvious opening for people so they don’t walk through the booths,” he added.
“We’re really blessed to have our wonderful little market here,” Getz said. “I always tell people, ‘It’s the Saturday thing to do.’”
The Methow Valley Farmers Market runs from 9 a.m. to noon, weekly. Dogs, firearms, alcohol and drugs are not allowed.
Winthrop also has its own market that opens the last Sunday in May at Mack Lloyd Park, and runs every Sunday until Labor Day weekend. Interested vendors may find an on-line application at www.winthropmarket.com.
The Mazama Market, which for the last 11 years operated on Wednesday evenings at the Mazama Community Club, will not open this summer unless somebody steps in to organize it, according to Dana Christiansen, who assisted founder and market maven Ann Diamond in running the Mazama Market for several years.
Diamond stepped down from her leadership role at the end of the last market season.
“Starting it up again would be a new enterprise for somebody,” Christiansen said. “The hope is that somebody else will want to take that on.”