The first harvests from local gardens and fields are hitting the streets with the opening of farmers market season around Tacoma and the South Sound. Any number of a variety of markets will take over a local street each day of the week with offerings from fresh veggies to cottage crafts and arts of all sorts, straight from the maker to the buyer.
The largest of these markets is the Broadway Farmers Market that takes over the Theater District each Thursday beginning in May and lasting through the summer. The South Tacoma Farmers Market anchors Sundays while the 6th Avenue Farmers Market holds down the demands of Tuesday shoppers. All three operate under one non-profit management but have their own neighborhood twists.
“Each market is unique,” market organizer Kayla Waldorf said. “Our Thursday market is our flagship market and is our largest (ranges between 80 and 100 vendors) and most metropolitan market (since it is located downtown). It really is a lunch hub for the downtown and business community and provides urban residents with local, farm fresh produce. I think the most interesting thing about this market is the mix of rural and urban cultures that come together in this space.”
This year, Downtown on the Go is bringing Bike Day complete with free bike parking and a bus demonstration to show riders how to load bikes safely and take the bus stress free.
The 6th Avenue market is more of a neighborhood market that has a family-friendly feel with games and activities for younger shoppers.
“We work hard to collaborate with the 6th Avenue Business District to cross promote 6th Avenue as a social hub,” Waldorf said. “This year, we are developing a new community dining space that aims to bring people together each market day and have a communal dinner and meet their neighbor, and our hope is that this will strengthen community ties.”
"Each market is unique." - Kayla Waldorf Market Organizer
The South Tacoma Market is the baby of the bunch. Located at STAR Center, a hub of activity for the South Tacoma community, the partnership allows for everything from food and craft vendors to fitness classes to play areas, with the Boys and Girls Club tossed into the mix.
“This is the perfect location for us because the STAR Center draws in exactly the right clientele,” Waldorf said. “Metro Parks has been extremely welcoming and helpful in the establishment and continued growth of this market and that partnership is so important to the development and feel of the market.”
The Proctor Farmers Market operates outside of the “big three” markets in Tacoma as a way to serve the neighborhood with fresh, locally grown farm products and information about food.
“Our market is unique to the entire county for several reasons,” organizer Lisa Lawrence said. “No. 1, we are a year-round market. Our weekly season runs from the end of March through the third week in December. Then we hold weekly winter markets on the second Saturday in January and February.”
The full calendar comes without “filler” vendors of crafters or art sellers. The market is all farms, all the time.
“We are farmer centered,” Lawrence said. “Our goal is to support local farms and farmers. This is why you don't see arts and crafts vendors at our market. It's about food and farmers. Five of our nine current board members are farmers.”
Surrounding cities have their own farmers markets that provide day-trip adventures for those seeking fresh food and local products. Gig Harbor, for example, has markets that offer vendors that come from the community for family entertainment and produce.
“We have music for kids every Saturday, free guitar lessons, kids can sing or play percussion instrument,” market manager Dale Schultz said.”There are no storefront businesses at our market.”
6th Avenue Farmers Market
Broadway Farmers Market
South Tacoma Market
Proctor Farmers Market
Puyallup Farmers’ Market
Gig Harbor Farmers Market
Gig Harbor Farmers Market at Uptown Shopping Center
Lakewood Farmers Market
Steilacoom Farmers Market