A milestone: Edmonds farmers market celebrates 25 years

By Brian Soergel | Jun 14, 2018
Courtesy of: Edmonds Historical Museum The first farmers market in Edmonds was held in the parking lot of the old Safeway, now home to Cascadia Museum.

Look for ribbons, balloons and bells on Saturday, June 16, as the Edmonds Museum Summer Market celebrates 25 seasons of bringing the bounty of local family farms, artists and producers to the heart of downtown Edmonds.

Also, great people-watching.

“I actually spoke to a lady a while back that said her final decision to move to Edmonds was because there was a farmers market,” said Bette Bell, who along with her late husband Fred founded the market.

The market’s story began with an idea. When Fred and Bette moved to Edmonds in 1986, they searched for something that would make a difference in the community.

“We were adjusting and making our first steps here in Edmonds,” Bette said. “I said to Fred, ‘Well, we could just sit up here on the hill and live and die and never know a single person in Edmonds, or we can get downtown to the museum or someplace that interests us and get involved.’ So I went to a museum board meeting, told them I’d like to start a farmers market as a fundraiser for the organization, and needed $500 for some initial advertising.”

The original market committee – Bell, Wanda Pederson and Mary Van Meter – made decisions and pulled long hours – just enough to get the ball rolling. They were overjoyed when setting up the first market in the parking lot of the old Safeway, now Cascadia Art Museum, in 1994.

“The early days at the parking lot were a huge challenge,” Bette said. “When it rained, and it did several times that first season, we had to find large brooms to sweep the water off the pavement before the vendors could set up.

Finding vendors who were willing to come to a new, untried event proved difficult.

“We had 10 vendors (there are now about 125) at the first summer market,” Bette said. “Fred and I printed flyers and spent several days going around to other markets that didn't operate on Saturdays to entice farmers to consider coming to our market. Many did not think Edmonds could draw the interest for a farmers market.”

The second year saw the market at Fifth Avenue North and Bell Street, and finally to Main Street and Bell Street, where it operates today.

"We decided to try and move the market after that first year, from the Safeway parking lot, and searched for a new location,” Bette said, “but we kept coming back to Sixth and Bell, as we knew it had to be a place where the market would be easy to find.

“Laura Hall, the mayor at the time, listened to our request, as did the City Council, and gave us permission to set up on Bell Street, between Fifth and Sixth. After several years, we had the need to expand a bit, and Fifth Street to the south, down to the fountain, became available.

"It was an easy walk down Fifth, past the museum, and up Bell Street to Sixth. That move gave us maximum visibility to almost everyone in town, and room for many new vendors, who wanted to sell at the market. We knew we had found our home, and were in the best location possible.”

Over the years the market has continued to grow in popularity, and is a particular favorite with the vendors, many of whom come back year after year.

“I’m pleased that the market has grown to its present size,” Bette said, “as it means the community is supporting local farmers, the local merchants, as well as the museum, and it is such a good thing for the city of Edmonds and the community as a whole.

“We had no idea this would turn out this way, but we got better at it every year, and it has proven to have sustainability. Our current market manager, Christina Martin, is the only paid position there is, and she has done a phenomenal job, as did our first two managers, Marie Braymen and Neil Landaas.”

Everyone else who helps and keeps the market running all summer are museum members, and they are all volunteers. Volunteers are always needed and welcome. If interested, you can email volunteer@historicedmond.org or call 425-774-0900. Information is also available on the museum website at www.historicedmonds.org.

With the Market growing in size each year, in 2003 the Museum decided to try getting a jump on the season by opening a scaled-down version in May, and the Spring Garden Market was born.

“We’ve got some special treats in store for our gala June 16 anniversary party,” said Museum Director Katie Kelly. “Be sure to mark your calendars and come on down for special music, buttons, a gala ribbon cutting, and to purchase commemorative tote bags. We’re so excited to open the 2018 market with a grand gesture. We especially want to thank the community, the City and the Edmonds Fire and Police Departments for all their support these many years.”

This season sees a new farmer: Rest Awhile Orchards out of Pateros. Amy and her family will be bringing plenty of certified organic fruits to the market all season, featuring cherries, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears and more.

Also on hand will be Bellingham Pasta Co., Saucy Mama & Co., Finn River Cidery, Brown Butterfly Co., and many other new producers and artists. As always, the market features a wide range of local artists who bring their work to share every week at the market, from woodcraft to clock making, photography to painting, jewelry crafts to fabric artists, glass artistry for the garden and the home.

“I am very pleased that the market has been so successful, but it is the work of so many dedicated folks,” Bette said. “Having an idea is one thing, getting it off the ground is another, and having such good people to work with the first 12 years that I was the chair made all the difference.

“Wanda Pedersen, Mary Van Meter, Roger Olive, and Mike and Margaret Wilcox are a very few of the names, who were, and some who still are, active in the market. Mike and Margaret took over the chair when I decided to step down, and here again we had a stellar team. I have no doubt the museum will continue to make the market the number one priority on their agenda as time goes on.”

One last thing: As always, leave your pets at home.

“The market has many vendors who put things on the ground, in and around their booths,” Bell said. “None of us can keep a constant eye on the activities of our pets, and there is a potential for unpleasant issues to occur.

“And the market is usually rather crowded. The opportunity for a small child, or a pet, to inadvertently get hurt and/or suffer significant stress is high – their reactions never can be predicted.”

Edmonds Museum Summer Market

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, June 16 through Oct. 6, with no market Aug. 11 due to Taste Edmonds
Where: Bell Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues north, as well as on Fifth Avenue North in front of the museum to Main Street.
Info: www.historicedmonds.org/summer-market, 425-774-0900
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