With the Fourth of July in the rear window, it seems like the summer season is in full swing and the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market, along with many local farms, have been up and running providing locals with the fresh goods they crave and also simply providing a little reminder of more normal days, throughout what seems like an everlasting COVID-19 pandemic.
Here on the island, the farmers market has been a summer staple for folks looking to peruse various artisan crafts, fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Market Manager Kell Killian, the market season started slowly due to virus caution but has slowly seen crowds ramping up week after week. The current COVID-19 guidelines for visitors include mandatory masks, social distancing and washing hands or using hand sanitizer before entering the market.
Out of the folks who are showing up at the market, many are repeat customers who have voiced their gratitude that the market is still operational during these strange times, Killian said. Some vendors have been slow to come back for a myriad of reasons and Killian noted that the market is always taking vendor applications.
Popular food and drink items at the market include artisan breads, coffee, pastries, grass-fed beef and seasonal seafood. Assorted farm items include eggs, seasonal fruit and vegetables, floral bouquets and plant starts. The market also offers and displays artisan crafts such as jewelry, pottery, natural skincare, wearable art and woodworks, according to the market website.
Various market vendors include AJOI Art, Amossoma, Bainbridge Island Woodworks, Bainbridge Vineyards, Bapa Toms Metal Works, Baywater Shellfish, Butler Green Farms, Central Valley Nursery, Clark Farms, Casey Creek Studios, Dancing Spirit Studios, Farmhouse Organics, Highside Distilling, OHO Clothing, Powell Jones Fine Chocolates, etc.
Over at Suyumatsu & Bentryn Family Farms on Day Road, which is composed of several farms including Bainbridge Island Farms, Butler Green Farms and Laughing Crow Farm, business seems to be doing fairly well despite the pandemic.
“We set up a new design here,” Bainbridge Island Farms owner and operator Karen Selvar said. “We used to sell out of the building up there but you would only be able to allow one person in the building at a time and we wouldn’t be able to sanitize it for every customer. We set up this [market] with the plexiglass and the six-feet-apart signs and it’s working quite well.”
This time of year, Selvar said the lead crop is raspberries through the end of August, while also offering strawberries, corn, pumpkins, jams and vinegars during different seasons. Butler Green Farms and Laughing Crow Farms are vendors with the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market while Selvar said her farm will set up there occasionally only if they are overflowed with products and need another outlet.
“I think people are appreciating it more actually as opposed to going to the grocery store to buy food,” Selvar said. “One woman came up and wanted to know about the U-pick and how we were going to practice social distancing because she hadn’t been in a grocery store since February. It is a concern.”
The farm’s U-pick process allows customers to use a container — either one provided by the farm or your own — to pick at an assigned row of crops. Selvar described a typical day of work at the farm starts with harvesting whatever’s in season, in this case, raspberries, before setting up the marketplace and stand. Farmers will continue picking throughout the day until their quota is met and wrap up the day by weeding whatever needs attention. The farmland was started by the Suyematsu family in 1928, making it the oldest continually farmed land on the island. In 1976, the Bentryn’s part of the farm started Bainbridge Island Vineyards.
For those interested, the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market provides a “Fresh Bucks” concept where visitors can go to the information tent and swipe their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card for whichever amount they wish to spend. In addition to the EBT tokens, participants will also receive $2 in Fresh Bucks for every $5 of EBT taken out. Then, visit market vendors that sell EBT eligible foods to redeem your Fresh Bucks for fresh produce.
In terms of live music being played this year, Killian said there has been some busking going on the past few weekends, but the latest county guidelines may prohibit that in the future as they are waiting for clarification on the matter. This past Saturday, local father-daughter singer-songwriting duo Jeff B and Remy Sol performed original songs along with a wide range of Americana and folk-rock music, according to the market’s Facebook page.
The Bainbridge Island Farmers Market occurs every Saturday between April and December from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Winslow Town Square, 280 Madison Ave N. For more information visit www.bainbridgeislandfarmersmarket.com.