"To market, to market"

"Local people who pick, pluck and pull their freshest fruits and vegetables out of their gardens and bring them to one of the six different farmers’ markets that run the length of Whidbey Island are betting on one thing: That while there are many supermarkets to choose from, people would rather buy produce that is grown organically — or at least without heavy commercial chemicals — by local people they can meet and talk to. And most of all, that they’ll come out to buy produce that it is as fresh as can be.They’re probably right. Fruits and vegetables always seem to be the first things to go on Thursday afternoon at the market in Oak Harbor, Saturday at the Coupeville, Bayview, South Whidbey Tilth and Langley markets, or Sunday at the new Greenbank Farm market.But there’s always a lot more than the traditional farmers’ fare to browse through at the outdoor gatherings.Even though it’s still early in the season, there were 13 booths and a healthy assortment of things to buy at the relatively new Oak Harbor Farmers’ Market Thursday.There were painted wooden ornaments, trees and plants, colorfully-sewn hot pads and dish clothes, fine wood carvings, canned beans pickled with a secret recipe, hand-made soaps, cut flowers, T-shirts, paintings and baked goods.Margaret Moreno runs the bake booth at both Oak Harbor and Bayview. Unlike all the other booths, 10 percent of her profit goes to running the markets. She said she sells baked goods from other vendors, but mostly her own scrumptious cookies, pastries, cakes and breads that she bakes at home with unbleached, organic flour and “other ingredients you can pronounce.”There’s coconut butter pecan cakes, butterscotch cookies, strawberry-filled sundae cones, dark chocolate raspberry crown cake, rocky road wedges and gooey cinnamon rolls.For Moreno and Jennifer Fahey — who was selling produce in a nearby stall — the markets are the way they are making a living this summer. Moreno said she decided to start her own baked goods business specifically for the farmer’s markets so that she could earn a living while staying at home with her kids on most days.Fahey manages the Oak Harbor market, which is in its third year, and helps her father-in-law with Larry’s Market — an Oak Harbor family gardening business that sells produce at the farmer’s market. For her, she said the market is a summer job, while the rest of the year she’s in college.But for many people, selling stuff at the market is more of a hobby or a way to show off a talent, not quite a business. Albert Fanning, for example, is the vice president of the 23-year-old Coupeville Farmer’s Market. On Saturdays during the summer, he can be found in his stall at the Main Street market, selling his fine wood carvings and exotic wood.As a retired Navy man, Fanning said selling his artwork at the market is “a little more than a hobby” but less than a living. His ambition matches the laid-back, friendly pace of the market and he doesn’t get worried if business is a little slow.Tony and Jan Stetler, owners of Shibboleth Farm on Devries Road, said they started bringing the surplus from their own organic garden to the Coupeville Market about seven years ago, and have gradually gotten more serious about it. They also sell canned specialties, like their popular and addictive “Papa Tony’s pickled beans” and zucchini curry relish.In fact, Jan Stetler said they enjoy the marketing so much that they hope to make a living at it some day.Others are less serious. Nick Walser of Oak Harbor brings his vegetables and crafts to the markets at Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Greenbank Farm. During the winter, he cuts out figures — like his Christmas snow people — from wood and his wife paints them.“It’s just something to keep me out of the taverns,” he said.But the one thing that seems to lure both vendors and customers to the markets is the strong sense of community and family that is always evident at the gatherings. The children run around and play in the grass while the older folks chat about the weather and maybe pick up something home-made or home-grown for dinner, or on the other hand, make a little money for their toil.“There is definitely a strong sense of community spirit here,” Fahey said.“There’s heart behind all of this stuff,” Moreno said, looking over all the neighboring stalls. “It’s not a trip to the grocery store. These people are putting their sweat into it.”-----------------------------Where and whenTHURSDAY Oak Harbor: 4 to 7 p.m., open space near Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Center, Highway 20. Call 675-0472. SATURDAYSCoupeville: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. N. Main St. Coupeville. Call 678-6757.South Whidbey Tilth: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner of Thompson Road and Highway 525. A scarecrow with a large green thumb is the landmark. Call (360) 331-2428 or 678-4168.Bayview: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the corner of Bayview Road and Highway 20 on South Whidbey. Call (360) 730-7013.Langley: First Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 4-H Building, Island County Fairgrounds. Call (360) 321-5185.SUNDAYSGreenbank Farm: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call Greenbank Farm, 678-7700.Summer Festivals The Coupeville Farmer’s Market — the island’s oldest, with more than two decades behind it — hosts several festivals during the year.• The fifth annual Very Berry Festival, featuring home-made berry pies is July 15 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.• The market features special attractions during the Coupeville Arts Festival, Aug. 12-13, and stays open both days from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.• Harvest Fest closes the season on Oct. 14 with special activities for children.• The Coupeville Farmer’s Market opens Dec. 2 for Winter Fest, with visits from Santa, a bake sale and bazaar."

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