h5. Locally grown kale, open-air shopping, Farmer John’s champagne-eyed daughter; what more could you want?

One of the best things about summer in Bellingham is the abundance of fresh produce growing right under our nose. The Bellingham Farmers Market, with a wealth of different vendors selling produce, crafts, and other farm products, offers a way to experience the bounty of this sunny season, while subsequently supporting the local economy.

“We work really hard to create a viable and prosperous place for farmers to market directly to customers, and to promote local produce, plants, and any farm products in Whatcom or Skagit counties. We also support crafters and local food processors,” said Market Manager Robin Crowder. “Our goal is to make it a successful selling location for them.”

This year marks the fourteenth season of the Saturday market, housed in the parking lot across from Boundary Bay Brewery. As this year has progressed, you may have noticed the construction on this site. According to Crowder, plans to improve the Market via construction of the shelter provided by this new construction have existed for over 10 years. Nevertheless, only recently did enough money come through to make the project happen.

In addition to the city receiving money from a Washington State Capitol Improvement Fund, members of the Farmers Market raised huge additional funds to complete the project.

“The rain and wind are so hard here,” said Crowder. “[The awnings] are there to keep customers and vendors dry, and try to limit the number of canopies onsite—they blow and are dangerous.” She added that this year, with the Market going all the way through the end of December, this shelter will be greatly appreciated as the harsher weather advances. “[The awnings] provide shelter, while still keeping the open air market,” she said.

Why should you shop at the Market instead of one of the grocery stores littering this fair town?

“You’re getting the freshest possible produce that you could ever buy,” said Crowder. “Many times, it’s picked just hours before the market. This means you get the very best flavor and nutrient content. By supporting local farmers, you are supporting the farming industry in Whatcom and Skagit counties, and also helping to protect and promote farm land and farm culture.” She added that by shopping the market, you get the additional bonus of talking directly to the people who grew the food you are purchasing. “You can’t do that in a grocery store,” she said.
In addition to the things that distinguish any farmers market from your average grocery store, the Bellingham Market offers a unique market experience. “What’s nice about our market is we use this logo: ‘fresh, local, lively… experience the market!’ People come to our market to hang out. At a lot of markets, people just grocery shop and then head home. Ours is really an experience. It’s a real community gathering place,” said Crowder.

If you want to get more involved in this festive, community enterprise, there are tons of volunteer opportunities. Instead of just lazing around those long summer days, why not help staff the information booth, or plate food for the Chef in the Market booth? “If anyone wants to get involved, we can put ‘em to work!” Crowder said enthusiastically.

The Downtown Market will be held every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm until December 23, at Depot Square on the corner of Railroad and Chestnut. There is also a smaller, mellower market every Wednesday until September, from 2 to 7 pm on the Village Green in Fairhaven. For more information, visit www.bellinghamfarmers.org.