Camas Farmer’s Market seeking cash infusion

Nonprofit that runs popular weekly event needs $25K to avoid cutbacks

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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By all accounts, the Camas Farmer’s Market is a winner — it promotes healthy living, brings the community together and promotes the city’s downtown. But as the weekly market has trended upward in popularity in recent years, the health of the nonprofit program that puts it on has not followed the same trajectory.

Camas Farmer’s Market officials said Friday the nonprofit is seeking $25,000 in donations this month to ensure its 2012 offerings don’t require major cutbacks due to economic hardships. It is asking able participants to donate $19 per family member, or $1 per week the market operates each year.

Losing the four-year-old market’s services would negatively impact the community, local business owners said, because it would eliminate a showcase for local products and a weekly rendezvous point for local families. Around 1,000 people attend the farmer’s market each Wednesday, said Alicia McAvay, the market’s coordinator.

“What makes Camas special is its downtown,” said Karen Hall, owner of the Camas Hotel and a member of the Camas Downtown Association. “The farmer’s market is a big part of that.”

This year’s farmer’s market started May 25 and is scheduled to wrap Sept. 28. It runs from 3-7:30 p.m. each Wednesday in front of the Camas Public Library, on Fourth Avenue between Northeast Everett and Northeast Franklin.

Closure not a concern

McAvay, the nonprofit’s only part-time employee, noted the operation is not in danger of closing down in 2012, unless it receives zero donations. If it doesn’t receive $25,000 before next March, there will be cuts to the program, McAvay said. The farmer’s market hopes to raise the entire amount this month.

The money would go toward special programming such as healthy living education, outreach toward vulnerable community members using WIC tenders and food stamps, and day-to-day market costs, McAvay said.

Without donations, “the city would be losing a community gathering space each week where we welcome all families and work toward food equality,” McAvay said.

The farmer’s market charges a flat rate to farmers ($20), producers ($30) and hot food vendors ($60) to set up booths. It does not take a commission on what is sold at the market. As such, the farmer’s market’s viability does not rest with how much is bought and sold. Instead, it rests on donations, which have been dropping due to harsh economic times, McAvay said.

Ken Navidi, who co-owns Camas-based Navidi’s Olive Oils and Vinegars with his wife, Gabby, has had a booth at the farmer’s market the past two years. Selling his product at the farmer’s market makes sense because it goes well with fresh vegetables.

“The farmer’s market is definitely an important aspect for bringing people downtown on Wednesdays,” Navidi said. “The whole concept of farm to table is critical for people being able to find wholesome foods.”

Donations will be accepted at the market on Wednesdays or can be donated online at http://www.camasfarmersmarket.org.