by Elsbeth Otto
As the fall harvest comes in from area farms, the Walla Walla Farmers Market continues to attract students looking for locally grown, fresh produce and arts and crafts from area artists.
Walla Walla’s primary farmers market, located between Third and Fourth Avenues on Main Street, takes place 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from May through the end of October. A much smaller Thursday afternoon farmers market, found in downtown’s Heritage Park, ended its May through September run this past Thursday.
Selling everything from tie-dye to salsa, nectarines to breads, the farmers market serves as both a marketplace for local products and a place to connect with the greater Walla Walla community. Anna Empey, a high school senior and five-year veteran of the farmers market, noted that while she enjoys selling her family’s fruit at the market, her favorite part is undoubtedly the people—“They’re open, they’re nice, they’re friendly. I especially enjoy working with college students. It’s fun to get to know some of them who keep coming back,” she said.
“The people are so fun,” concurred Anna’s mother, Lanette Empey. “[The other vendors and ourselves] all have a party.”
As the farmers market celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer, it continues to grow. With 52 booths—including 46 vendors and 6 non-profit agencies, Beth-Aimee MGuire, the market manager, has observed a 35 percent increase in the number of booths from last year. Attendance at the farmers market has also been strong this summer. On an average Saturday, McGuire estimates between 2500 and 3000 people stop by the farmers market.
In order to have a farmers market stand, sellers must go through a selection process, pay membership dues and undergo semi-annual checks from McGuire to ensure that they alone are producing the goods they are selling. McGuire goes to this extra effort to ensure the quality and integrity of the farmers market and “stress the importance of supporting local farmers,” which she sees as the essential idea behind the farmers market.
Many Whitman students take advantage of the opportunity to purchase fresher, less expensive produce, interact with the larger community and support local farmers and artists provided by the farmers market.
“The sausages are awesome, or, yeah, hella good,” said Farmers Market sausage connoisseur and Whitman senior Wes Hubbard.
“The corn at the farmers market is amazing!” said Whitman sophomore Andrea Seymour. “I like it. I love it. I want a lot more of it. Plus the corn at Safeway is two for a dollar whereas you can get between four and six ears for a dollar at the farmers market, and the corn is way better.”
“Everything I get [at the farmers market] tastes wonderful,” said sophomore Kari Martin. Yet after completing a week-long eat locally challenge for her environmental sociology class, Martin felt more aware of the limited nature of the farmers market. “I’m really glad the farmers market is a venue that’s available to Whitman students. At the same time it doesn’t have everything necessary to fill all dietary needs. … I would love to see it expand to fulfill more dietary realms, shall we say.”
First-year Camila Thorndike, another fan of the farmers market, also recognized the market’s limited nature. “I’d like to see a greater variety of foods to draw people to the market—specifically cheese, eggs, meat … everything that’s missing, so that people don’t have an excuse not to go there.”
Students particularly appreciate the low prices of food at the market, especially the Empey’s fruit stand, which happily gives away a piece of fruit to any visitor to the stand.