A handful of Washougal residents are exploring the possibility of bringing a farmers market back to their neck of East County.
Heena Dwivedy, board president of the Downtown Washougal Association, said Washougal farmers market supporters are still in “discussion and exploratory mode,” but are beginning to reach out to experts, including directors of other regional farmers markets who have offered their recipes for market success.
“Next steps include evaluating who and how many Washougal citizens are interested in participating and wanting a farmers market, and connecting with farms to see who and how many would participate as well,” Dwivedy said.
The town had a farmers market in the past. Liz Stiles was a vendor at the Washougal Farmers Market in 2011. She said organizers need to get commitments from interested vendors well in advance, and added that the market should be held on a day that does not compete with other farmers markets in the area, and that vendors should sell homegrown or farm-fresh produce and honey.
Tina Eifert is now in her fifth season as the program coordinator of the Camas Farmers Market. She said a successful farmers market has loyal and enthusiastic customers and committed vendors — including local farmers, growers and producers.
Eifert said her half-time position is devoted to the farmers market May through October, but that she networks and promotes the Camas Farmers Market throughout the year.
Eifert, who also is a representative of the Washington State Farmers Market Association, said some smaller farms and bakeries might not be able to supply multiple farmers markets on two consecutive days.
Supporters of a farmers market in Washougal have said they don’t want to compete with the Camas Farmers Market on Wednesdays or the Vancouver Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays. Right now, supporters are hoping to get a farmers market — selling just fruits and vegetables, no crafts — in downtown Washougal’s Reflection Plaza, for a total of eight Thursdays.
Vancouver Farmers Market director started in Washougal
Jordan Boldt, a former Washougal resident now in his ninth year as executive director of the Vancouver Farmers Market, said communities such as Washougal need access to quality food and produce.
“Towns like Washougal are full of entrepreneurs and people interested in starting food and art based businesses,” he said. “Farmers markets serve a unique and invaluable role in developing these businesses in the communities in which they’re founded.”
Boldt added that, for a farmers market to be successful, it needs a strong, diverse and dedicated vendor network that brings quality products and shows up on a regular basis to meet their customers’ needs.
Farmers markets also require a large and consistent customer base, Boldt said.
“These customers need to show up and support the vendors — especially early on — in order to help them get a foothold in that community and start generating some cash flow,” he said.
Boldt added that farmers markets need a lot of support from local governments, businesses and business associations.
During the summer of 2009, Boldt managed the Washougal Main Street Market, which featured flowers, fruits and vegetables, as well as art, jewelry and handmade greeting cards for several Saturdays in Reflection Plaza.
He said some smaller farmers market customers complain that their markets are not as big as the Vancouver Farmers Market.
“Communities need to show up and shop diligently, to develop the market they want,” Boldt said.
Vendors and volunteers interested in being a part of a possible Washougal Farmers Market should contact Twila Pierson at email@example.com.