Salmon Creek Farmers Market puts down roots

After switching locations for its second season, it will return to same site on Thursdays in 2012

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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photoElstar apples, grown locally but originally from Denmark, sit in a crate at the CGI Orchard booth on the final day of the Salmon Creek Farmers Market for the 2011 season Sept. 29, 2011. The market will return in the same location next year.

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Fresh (so to speak) off its sophomore season, the Salmon Creek Farmers Market is looking ahead to Year No. 3 in a familiar location.

“At this point, we’re planning on being at the same place” in 2012, said Ann Foster, one of the organizers.

Thursday was the final day of the 2011 season just off Northeast 134th Street, behind Wayside Market and Biscuits Cafe.

“As far as next year, we’ve been offered the same site,” Foster said.

That should provide some continuity.

The market made its debut in 2010 near the Three Creeks Community Library, where it found itself dealing with the changing landscape of Salmon Creek.

That spot now is a freeway construction site, so this year’s edition of the farmers market set up shop at the spot just south of Northeast 134th Street and just west of Interstate 5.

“It’s worked out well,” Foster said. The site “provided a lot of parking for customers; it’s spacious and flat.

“The synergy has been a little different, not being next to Fred Meyer and the Three Creeks Community Library,” she added. “The neighborhood and the community been supportive.

“We did better with vendor participation,” she said. “We had some credibility established last year that brought in additional vendors.”

This year’s vendors represent a wide range of growers. George Thoeny farms 500 acres; Rick Sievers farms 10,000 square feet.

“It’s not a moneymaker,” said the Hockinson resident. Sievers hopes to have an acre under cultivation some day, and referred to this year’s experience as “apprenticing.”

Sievers was set up during a recent market day next to John Anderson, who operates Moon Bear Produce in Battle Ground.

“This a really satisfying way to market,” Anderson said. “It’s great meeting the people who will eat our produce.”

Thoeny operates on a bigger scale, on a Woodland farm his family has worked for decades. He was doing a brisk business in fresh carrots and ears of corn that had been on the stalk just a few hours earlier.

“We do three farmers markets: Vancouver, Salmon Creek and Longview,” Thoeny said.

The Thursday schedule was designed to give growers another marketing day, and that timetable will continue, Foster said.

“If we moved to another day, it would compete with other markets for vendors,” she said.

For many customers, getting to the farmers market meant making left turns across 134th Street.

“To my knowledge, it has not been an issue,” Foster said. “We worked with Clark County Public Works and traffic engineers, and if it had become a problem, they would have helped in adjusting traffic lights to allow more space. There were occasional complaints, but nothing like we experienced last year with huge traffic issues at 139th Street.”

The Salmon Creek Farmers Market is trying a couple of outreach efforts this year, including a recent afternoon minimart at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Five vendors set up tables near the main entry, where hospital employees on their way home paused to buy corn, apples, mushrooms or heirloom tomatoes.

The most frequent question was, “How much is this?” It was followed closely by, “Will you be back?”

“We’re hoping to do more with Legacy,” Foster said.

Another minimart is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Burgerville at 8320 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive, just off state Highway 500. It will be part of the Burgerville system’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Foster also has a couple of touches in mind for next year, including ways to serve customers in the Electronic Benefits Transaction system.

“Those are the benefits for people who are on food-assistance programs,” she said. “That also would enable us to have credit and debit card capability.”

Other than a couple of vendors, sales have been cash or check only.