Zest for the home-grown

Folks at the volunteer-staffed Washougal Farmers Market relish food that's fresh and local

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



Clark County’s newest farmers market site will go into business on Saturday. The Vancouver Farmers Market – East will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 30 at the Evergreen Public Schools center at 13501 N.E. 28th St. The grand opening will be Sept. 18.

WASHOUGAL — Some of the produce had been harvested a few hours earlier from farms and gardens just a short drive away.

That’s one of the things that appealed to Anne Goforth as she filled her shopping basket with … well, let’s see what’s in there.

“Tomatoes, onions, baby cherry tomatoes,” Goforth said as she inventoried her purchases Saturday morning at the Washougal Farmers Market.

The event runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Sept. 25, at Reflection Square in downtown Washougal.

“I love the fact that these are local farmers. Liz picked some of her produce this morning,” Goforth said, nodding toward the booth where Liz Pike was selling vegetables as well as other items from her Shangri-La Farm.

“And,” Goforth added, “it tastes delicious.”

Pike also was putting on a cooking demonstration, sizzling up thick slices of french toast.

“These are our farm-fresh eggs,” said Pike, who described herself as a foodie.

The bread came from the adjoining booth, where Mary Hargrave’s offerings included an orange- and cranberry-studded variety of challah from Vancouver’s Julia Bakery.

But french toast isn’t their only collaboration. Pike and Hargrave also are part of the team that’s helped the Washougal Farmers Market stay in business.

The downtown market was caught up in the turbulence several months ago when the state auditor’s office investigated financial problems with city-sponsored events.

That could have been the end of the market on Main Street, Hargrave said.

“We decided we wanted to continue the market. We thought it was important for the vitality of Washougal,” Hargrave said.

“With the change in city administration and the economic times, the city was not able to fund the market any more. The nonprofit took over, and this is the first year we’re in charge.

“We are all volunteers. Liz has an advertising company. She helped with posters and signage and did the website,” Hargrave said. “I have bookkeeping in my background.”

The market group did need the city’s blessing, Hargrave added, to set up at Reflection Square on Main Street and get some promotional help through the city’s website.

“It took them a while to get back to us,” Hargrave said. “They had so many balls in the air because of changes in administration. We probably were not their highest priority.

“It’s been pretty successful,” Hargrave said as the market nears the end of its ninth year. “It will take a while to grow, especially with newcomers taking it over.”

The market provides more than just a once-a-week sales opportunity, said R.C. Fritz, who operates Enchanted Gardens Nursery north of Camas.

“This has generated traffic for our nursery,” said Fritz, after bagging up some peppers and jalapeños for a chili-cooking customer.

While organizers have been able to keep the market going, one important aspect of the operation is out of their control: growing conditions.

That’s why Pike was preparing french toast at her display counter Saturday. When Pike was planning her demo schedule, she figured a marinara sauce — or maybe salsa — would be nice for early September.

However, Pike said, “The tomatoes are not ready. It’s a weird year. I’ve got 45 plants that are 6 feet tall, and lots of green tomatoes.”