Make it to the market
What: Bellingham Farmers Market
Where: Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave.
WHEN: 10am-2pm Saturdays, April 3-Dec. 18
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
The stalks of the bulbs of hardneck garlic I purchased at the Bellingham Farmers Market last fall and planted in my vegetable garden are now approximately six inches tall—and growing by the minute. Before being dug up in early summer, their curly tops will be snipped to use in stir-fries, pesto, soups, sauces and omelets, or barbecued on the grill.
But even if I had chosen not to undertake the multi-step process required to bring an allium crop to fruition, it would still be easy to score fresh garlic scapes around these parts. Provided they were in season, I’d simply return to the Bellingham Farmers Market—or one of the other numerous nearby food hubs that will be soon be opening for the season—and stock up on the spicy stem.
Before last spring, I would’ve taken it for granted that, every Saturday from April through December, I could head to the Depot Market Square and source fruits and vegetables I was too lazy or inept to grow myself, find a handmade gift, sample a new menu item from one of the food purveyors, pick up a bouquet of flowers, or suss out the local cheese and meat offerings. But when the pandemic hit and delayed the opening of many farmers markets across Washington state, it wasn’t clear that would be an option.
Luckily, Governor Jay Inslee soon deemed farmers markets an essential service, and they got the green light to continue operations. When the Bellingham Farmers Market opened for its 2020 season last April, it was with COVID-compliant safety rules firmly in place and a commitment to both its vendors and customers to continue operations.
With the opening of the 29th season taking place this weekend, market director Lora Liegel wants patrons to know what they can expect from the more than 100 small and local businesses whose doors and farm fields are located throughout Whatcom and Skagit counties.
“Farmers, food producers and artisans will offer locally grown and produced goods,” she says of the 60-70 vendors expected at each market. “You will be able to find kitchen staples like tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots in addition to other unique produce items like purple tomatillos, figs, ground cherries and garlic scapes. For a culinary tour of what’s in season, cruise by the farmers market on any given Saturday.”
Liegel also wants people to know that, despite the challenges associated with COVID-19, the market is here to stay. To that end, BFM recently ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise more than $3,000 needed to commission an onsite mural from local artists Gretchen Leggitt and Sarah Finger. In addition to bringing more beauty to downtown Bellingham sometime in May, the work of art is meant to reflect the permanence of the place where it will be painted.
Another sign of longevity includes adding new vendors to the lineup such as Carnal (grass-fed beef jerky), Laird Dairy (raw milk cheeses from Brown Swiss dairy cattle), the Sunspot Series (limited-edition, handmade wood art), and Sage to Sea Designs (handcrafted leather and tote bags).
Additionally, the Wednesday Farmers Market will return after taking a hiatus in 2020. From June to September, shoppers will be able to head to the waterfront from 4pm-7pm for their midweek produce fix. At its new home near the Pump Track and Waypoint Park, each market will feature approximately 40 vendors selling their wares with Bellingham Bay as the backdrop.
For people who are still avoiding public spaces as much as possible, Bellingham Farmers Market’s website also includes links to farms and businesses who offer online ordering—thus making it easier to support them, both during the pandemic and beyond it.
Also noted are those farms and suppliers offering CSA shares. The acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture, wherein you commit to purchasing food from a farm for an entire growing season, and they return the favor by supplying you with a box of seasonal goods once a week. Check for a listing of CSAs in Whatcom and Skagit counties in next week’s online issue of this paper, and find one that’s right for you.
Meanwhile, drop by the modified Bellingham Farmers Market if you’re able to and stock your larder, pick up lunch, buy plants and bouquets, or discover items meant to beautify your living space. Whatever your haul contains, remember that your purchases are helping small businesses keep their heads afloat during a time of crisis, and we’re lucky to still have them around.
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