November 23, 2022

Port Townsend Farmers Market is in transition


PORT TOWNSEND – The Port Townsend Farmers Market will soon go into hibernation. But no one should go without produce from local producers this winter, said Amanda Milholland, the recently returned director of Jefferson County Farmers Markets.

There are only three Port Townsend markets left in 2021: this Saturday, then December 11 and 18. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., about 40 vendors are open on Tyler and Lawrence Streets Uptown, Milholland said, and many are selling products that will last into the New Year.

“There is a great wealth of products that keep very well,” she said, “so I use the last handful of markets to store my pantry and refrigerator.

“Carrots, beets, potatoes, winter squash, sprouts and Brussels sprouts last a long time in a cool, dark basement or room or refrigerator”, or even in a root cellar House. Instructions on how to make one can be found online, Milholland said.

“This is a very important time for local farms. They are entering their planning period of the year when they are not earning income, ”she added.

“Invest in them now,” Milholland said, “so they can appear next spring,” when the market reopens.

Throughout the season, the Farmer’s Market offers a buddy program for people using the SNAP and WIC benefits; buyers can get details at the information booth at the front of the market, facing Lawrence Street, and at https://jcfmarkets.org under Food access.

Jefferson County Farmers Markets themselves are on the verge of a strategic planning effort, Milholland said, adding that it had been about 15 years since such an effort had taken place.

“We are a very small non-profit organization, looking for how to continue to stay true to our mission,” which is to connect farmers and artisans with a diverse clientele and in doing so promote a strong local economy.

The market, started in a downtown parking lot almost 30 years ago, has blossomed and fruited like a field of strawberries. A Sunday market in Chimacum was added while Port Townsend got an additional Wednesday market in summer and early fall.

Then came 2020. The coronavirus reshaped the scene, spaced out sellers and masked buyers, cut live music and cooking demonstrations, and cut sales. Overall revenue fell by nearly half, from $ 1,332,823 in 2019 to $ 710,363 in December 2020, according to then-director Deirdre Morrison.

The recovery started last spring.

Port Townsend’s Saturday market had as many as 70 vendors at the height of the season, Milholland reported; that’s up from a few dozen last year. However, sales are still down 12% from 2019.

Salespeople like Sonya Zohar from Goddessa by Design are seeing thirsty customers. On a recent Saturday afternoon, she had nearly used up all of her jars of alternative milk drinks – worth 7 gallons, which she had just squeezed that morning.

“My fingers are about to drop,” Zohar joked.

Milholland, for her part, is back after a hiatus: in the fall of 2020, she left the market position she had held for five years to become a product manager at Port Townsend Food Co-op.

Morrison accepted the Farmers’ Market position soon after, then left it last summer. Chimacum market manager Pat Milliman stepped in as interim chef, then Milholland returned in October.

“The cooperative was a big community of people,” she said, but missed the work of developing the farmers market.

“I’m really happy to have the opportunity to come back, as we go through this transition” to strategic planning.

For a sort of season finale, Milholland has booked a trio of musicians to play on December 18 at the Port Townsend Farmers Market: Matt Sircely, Jack Dwyer and newcomer Bobby Winstead will bring their vocals and instruments to mix with the winter vegetables. and Christmas wreaths.

These market participants, Milholland said, are all small businesses that mirror what is done in this community; purchases among them “have an impact on the community as a whole and on the economy”.

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Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]