Farmers market will sprout April 11

April 6, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Alex Williams (left) thanks fellow Preston neighbor Jay Hirst for coming by his Preston Hill Bakery vendor tent last year at the Issaquah Farmers Market. FILE

Alex Williams (left) thanks fellow Preston neighbor Jay Hirst for coming by his Preston Hill Bakery vendor tent last year at the Issaquah Farmers Market. FILE

On 140 acres near Wapato, farmer Rick Haas grows fruit — including apples, peaches and plums — and vegetables bound for farmers markets in Western Washington. When the Issaquah Farmers Market opens for the season April 11, Haas will offer his homegrown wares at Pickering Barn. 

The market and other ventures across the region benefited in recent years as consumers stepped up efforts to buy local produce, market vendors said. 

“There is a demand, a big push on right now, to buy fresh and buy local,” Market Manager Dave Sao said.More than 100 vendors arrive at Pickering Barn each Saturday morning during market season. Live entertainment is also part of the market.

Vendors said customers have become more inquisitive over the years. They stop to ask questions about how produce was grown before deciding to buy, Haas and other vendors said.

“They want to talk to and see the people they’re buying the product from,” Haas added.

Becky Duris, whose family-run Duris Farms in Puyallup sends a multitude of berries and vegetables to the Issaquah market, said she enjoys interacting with customers.

“This doesn’t happen in the grocery store or the department store,” she said. “You get that hometown feeling at farmers markets.”

Though produce is by far the biggest draw, Sao said, vendors hawking everything from artisan bread to barbecued ribs keep customers interested.

“It’s becoming a destination — a place to go on Saturday,” Sao said.

The market, launched in 1990, will face increased competition this season from new markets in Bellevue, Maple Valley and Auburn. In the past, when communities such as Mercer Island opened markets, the Issaquah market was unaffected. 

“I like to think that we’ve got the best market on the Eastside,” Sao said.

During the market’s early years, only a handful of vendors participated. As Issaquah grew, the city Parks & Recreation Department claimed sponsorship of the event. The market moved to Pickering Barn in 2000.

Duris said the markets work to promote a sense of community, in addition to allowing customers an opportunity to buy fresh produce and ask questions about the food chain.

“The community really supports it,” she said. “The community enjoys it not just for shopping, but for keeping in touch socially.”

For Haas, the third generation of his family to farm in Yakima County, farmers markets are key to survival. In addition to providing an outlet for his produce, Haas said the markets offer a chance to educate people about how food progresses from farm to table. 

“It’s not a job,” he said about farming. “It’s a way of life.”

If you go

Issaquah Farmers Market

9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Saturdays from April 11-Oct. 10

Pickering Barn

1730 10th Ave. N.W.

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