Market produces a throng
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:55 PM
"When it came to promoting local produce, vendors at the debut of the farmers' market Saturday were not timid, even if some of them were chickens.Rocky the rooster, for example, made a confident sales-pitch premiere.He was our radio spot announcer, said Sundown Ridge Farm owner Chuck Muller. Every five minutes, we would have a commercial break and he'd let loose.But the caged-yet-cocksure fowl could not compare to one performing lamb, which was far from sheepish. The animal flailed to the beat of the Dirt Road Philharmonics bluegrass band, delighting a crowd of children dancing by the stage at the market's new location next to city hall.My kids love the market because they see their friends, said island artist Debbie Lester, one of a sizeable contingent of islanders who crowded the market site on opening day.I do this every Saturday, Lester said. It's a ritual. My kids remind me every (week).Lester, who works in Seattle, also eagerly anticipates market day. Saturday is really the day for the people who don't have the opportunity to be on the island during the week, she said. It's really nice to come back to a community.And that's the kind of role farmers' market board president Jaci Douglas hopes the weekly event will fill. I really like the idea of it being a social occasion, instead of a soulless thing (like shopping in a supermarket), Douglas said. Some visitors said they frequent the market to catch up with neighbors and favorite farmers. It's nice to see the familiar faces, said shopper Kate Cunningham. It will be nice to see some new ones too.Douglas admits that her propensity to chat with patrons sometimes contributed to longer lines at her brisk baked goods business, but (shoppers) say, 'Oh, go ahead. This is the farmers' market. That's what it's all about.'The longest line Saturday wound down the sidewalk from the booth of Kim Nguyen, who has sold her vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine at the market for five years. In the afternoon, Nguyen cooked furiously to meet the incessant demand for noodles, egg rolls, and veggie chicken, but it was all in a day's work. We're out of food all the time, she said, adding that she has considered calling it quits now that her children are off at college and can no longer help her.But people keep calling, and I come back, she said. This island is very friendly to me.Next year, if she can handle the work, Nguyen says she might open for business in a permanent location. I thought maybe a small spot, she said. To go.That means she would follow in the footsteps of another local restaurateur, Jeannie Wood, who also got her start at the farmers market, before she opened up La Belle Saison on Winslow Way.The market now serves as an important incubator for local businesses, vendors said, in addition to preserving a rural Bainbridge by sustaining local farms.It's supporting a way of life, said Butler Greens owner Brian McWhorter. A lot of people moved here for that (rural of environment), for the pastoral beauty of the land.If we had 10 percent of (residents) come down here, he said, we could support all the farmers that want to farm in this area. But produce vendors are banking on the idea that a sense of civic duty won't be the only thing attracting shoppers.Most of the market's goods are organic, which increases the health value of some vegetables significantly, said the owner of Leap Frog Farm, Andrzej Babij.Broccoli retains more of the chemicals and pesticides that are put on it than almost every crop, he said. As far as value, everybody should be buying their broccoli at the farmers' market.But while organic produce is available elsewhere, Footloose Farm Produce owner Darrah Cole observed that when it comes to freshness, local farmers have the market cornered.Everything at the grocery store has to be at least four days old, she said. I did my little salad mix this morning. It's like two hours old.The only way to get your greens fresher would be to eat them off the ground, said Leap Frog Farm co-owner, Christine Tressel, likening local produce to tasty forage. It's like deer food, she said.The Bainbridge Island Farmers' Market runs through September."