By Wendy Wallace
Whether you’re interested in buying locally grown vegetables, chatting with old friends, or socializing your new puppy, the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market will fit the bill. The outdoor market runs from April to November at Town Square in City Hall Park and offers locals and tourists a colorful sampling of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, eggs, baked goods, handmade crafts… not to mention omelets and pot stickers!
Part of the locavore, farm-to-table movement is about knowing your farmer. A recent walkabout at the market allowed us to do just that. If you visit the Farmhouse Organics’ stand, Bainbridge native Anne Weber may look familiar. She has been selling her produce at the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market for 20 years.
Establishing a family tradition, her grandparents farmed in the Eagledale area of the island, and she and her husband, Peter, are happy to continue the practice. Besides their appreciation of working outdoors and being their own boss, it’s the “big family” on the island that keeps them in farming.
“I really love the community feeling we get from our regular customers. We’ve watched their kids grow up at the market. That part is really fun,” said Anne, in between greeting her customers who’ve now become friends. While she sells lesserknown items such as garlic scapes and pea shoots, this summer she’s personally looking forward to snap peas and Sungold tomatoes, a sweet, cherry-sized orange and yellow tomato.
Butler Green and Laughing Crow intern Britney Tonning seconds that vote for tomatoes as a favorite. She would like to educate the public about another delicious but underappreciated crop: Hakurei turnips. Similar to radishes but sweeter in taste, these turnips are an undiscovered gem at the market, said Tonning. In fact, the educational aspects of Bainbridge farming are what attracted this Iowan to the industry.
As a farm intern, she works with the EduCulture Project, an initiative of Global Source Education (gloablsourcenetwork.org) headquartered here on Bainbridge. The program’s goals include farm stewardship, sustainability and citizenship. By bringing school kids to farms, the program aims to convert working farms into classrooms, so younger generations learn the importance of good nutrition, and eating fresh, whole foods as well as the challenges and benefits of growing your own food.
Persephone Farm owner Rebecca Slattery knows well those challenges and benefits. Her favorite crops are cauliflower, brussels sprouts and radicchio, in part because of their taste, but also because she finds them “the most challenging of the veggie world, the prima donnas of the patch.” Farming for over 20 years, Slattery entered the field as a home gardener and soon noticed her passion, and her time commitment, expanding exponentially.
“I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to turn this equation around.’ So in 1990 I enrolled in the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at The University of California at Santa Cruz, a wonderfully enriching and comprehensive training program which helped me transition from home gardener to market gardener.” In answering what keeps her farming in an unsure economy, Slattery shared a sentiment common with all the farmers. “What I enjoy most about farming is the tremendous satisfaction I get from feeding my community the healthiest, most vibrantly live food possible,” she said. “This helps me sleep well at night.”
Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market is held Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., April through November 10, Town Square at City Hall Park, 280 Madison Avenue North, bainbridgefarmersmarket.com.