During the summer on any given week, you are able to attend a farmers market Wednesday through Sunday. Established markets like Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick cover Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. New markets have started on Wednesday (West Richland) and Sunday (3-Eyed Fish Market in Richland). I talked to Oscar Martinez, Kathy Hansen, and Greta Dority to hear about how they run their markets in Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick.
Kennewick’s market is hot!
Greta Dority is the market manager in Kennewick and works with Stephanie Button, the Executive Director of the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership, on communication and marketing. During the winter months, Greta manages the ‘Hometown Holiday Parade’ event; from February to November, she manages the vendors at the Kennewick Farmers Market.
“SNAP is a big deal,” says Greta. Through a grant, visitors to the Kennewick market can match EBT dollars with SNAP, doubling the amount up to $40. They can use it for fruits, vegetables, tomato plants, and herbs. About one third of the farmers market customers benefit from this.
Our farmers market is a community gathering space
Being in the downtown district of Kennewick, visitors are able to explore the rest of the shopping district. “It helps the vitality of the downtown area to become a community gathering space,” says Stephanie.
Another unique element of Kennewick’s market is the time of day; after work you can stroll through the market, enjoying live music. However, in mid-summer, this can be a challenge at the same time. The extreme heat has caused the market to cancel a few times.
Lots of space at Pasco’s market
Oscar Martinez runs the Pasco Farmers Market, the oldest market (34 years!) in the Tri-Cities under the umbrella of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority (DPDA). It receives sponsorships from Amazon, Columbia Bank, and the Port of Pasco. The Pasco market is also the largest one in the Tri-Cities, with vendor spots still available and a lot of room to grow. According to Oscar, 90% of the vendors are returning every year. Part of the vendor partnership is a connection with a commercial kitchen who buys the remaining food. And with Fields of Grace donations, no food is wasted.
“We haven’t canceled once; we are always here, rain or shine,” says Oscar. “We have a brand new pavilion that opened this year,” he added, referring to the 6-million-dollar improvement with two shaded pavilions which is a home for not only the farmers market but for other community events, as well.
Richland’s market is buzzin’
Run as a nonprofit, the Richland Farmers Market is self-funded without sponsorships.
Proceeds are given back to the community, funding things such as the Tree of Seasons art on The Parkway, electricity hookups for the vendors, and a new sculpture to be erected soon near the Theater.
Kathy Hansen is the market manager and is “working her butt off” (according to her volunteer staff) to make the market a pleasant experience for shoppers as well as for vendors. Kathy explained the success of her market: “It’s about Farmers First.” She also said that the vendor relationships are very important. “I am a farmer myself and was a vendor in the past. I know what they need. I speak their language.”
Eighty five families are making a living here
Kathy says they have hundreds of vendor applications every year; they don’t need to advertise, it is all word of mouth. Every week she tries to fill the available 85–90 spots by fitting in as many vendors as possible. “The market is a perfect way to try out a new product,” she says. “You will find out very soon if you have a good idea or not when presenting it here on the market.” Kathy also emphasizes the fact that the market has been able to revitalize the downtown Richland district. She is very passionate about the main purpose of their market: “There are 85 families making a living here!”
At the end of each market, Fields of Grace helps minimize the food waste by collecting leftover donations for the food bank. "So far this year, we have collected more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce from the two markets," says Lisa E. Williams, Executive Director of Fields of Grace.
The newest markets
West-Richland kicked off a community market every 2nd and 4th Wednesday this summer.
The 3-Eyed Fish Market now offers the Queensgate community access to local produce and vendors on Sundays in a special setting which offers the ability to hang out on the grass.