Last Sunday I went to the Ballard Farmer’s Market with a friend who is very knowledgeable about food and farmer’s markets. She is so into quality, local food that she had visited the University Farmer’s Market the day before yet was willing to drive 2 hours round-trip to Ballard just to pick up a certain kind of cheese from a vendor who promised to have it there. She knows her stuff. The cheese in question is an award winning provolone called Weebles produced by Estrella Family Creamery.
As we scouted out the things we would want to come back and purchase, she explained to me that most farmer’s markets in Seattle belong to the Neighborhood Farmer’s Market Alliance. To sell at a market that is part of the Alliance you must be a Washington state farmer or small food business selling your own product. Markets that are part of the Alliance do not allow vendors that sell crafts, imports, or second hand goods.
I asked her why this was the case, thinking that having the other types of vendors would attract more people, thereby helping all the vendors at the market to sell more goods. She explained that most sales at a fruit or vegetable stand will be $7.00 or under. If the consumer brings $30.00 to spend at the market and spends $15.00 on the silver earrings at the stand next to the producer, that further reduces the amount of money the consumer will spend on produce or food. It also lessens the possibility that the producer will sell all of his/her product or get a good financial return for participating in the market. Another problem is that the producer cannot bring his/her perishable goods back again the following week but the jewelry seller can.
So of course my next question was “Why does the Ballard Farmer’s Market allow crafts vendors?” The reason is that it is organized by the Ballard neighborhood, rather than the Alliance. The Ballard Farmer’s Market works because it attracts enough of a crowd that the producers who are there can sell enough to make it worth their participation.
The Ballard Market was lots of fun. If you haven’t been I recommend you go. You can support local food and farmers even more by also visiting one or more of the seven markets that are part of the Neighborhood Farmer’s Alliance.