Farmers market to offer new bounty

Salmon, cheese, dairy on executive director’s wish list

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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photoMike Posey looks over his inventory while Shelley Hulley (center), of Ridgefield, picks up some winter and fall greens for her home garden during the downtown Vancouver's Farmers Market 18th anniversary celebration on Saturday August 30, 2008. Posey was an original vendor when the market opened in 1990. (The Columbian/Zachary Kaufman)

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If you go

What: Vancouver Farmers Market offers local produce, flowers, plants, baked goods, food, pet treats, and accessories for home and garden.

Where: Sixth and Esther streets, downtown Vancouver.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Information: Vancouver Farmers Market or 360-737-8298.

Don’t be surprised if you see some new goods crop up in the 2012 season of the Vancouver Farmers Market.

Salmon, cheese and dairy vendors are all on Executive Director Jordan Boldt’s recruiting wish list, and he already has a few interested producers in mind. There’s just some hammering out of final details to go, he said.

“We’re hoping to have fresh salmon in here this year. It’s looking good that it will happen,” Boldt said. “People have been asking for it. I think it will be very popular once we get things approved for that through the health department.”

There won’t be a large variety of produce when the market kicks off Saturday, but that’s because a lot of crops aren’t ready for harvest.

Still, visitors should find plenty of root vegetables and winter crops such as carrots and potatoes.

“You’ll also see some apples and pears that were held over in cold storage from last season, because they preserve really well, and, of course, some greenhouse produce,” Boldt said.

Gardeners, on the other hand, will find a wide range of plants that could well make them feel like shopaholics at a holiday bargain sale, he said.

“Kickoff weekend, you’ll see a lot of vegetable starts and nursery products,” Boldt said. “This is a great time for backyard gardeners to come in.”

The first big farm crop of the season will be asparagus, which could appear in early April, depending on the weather. Cold snaps during the past two springs delayed that crop by almost a month, but farmers hope that this year might bring an early or at least a normal start.

And when that comes in, Boldt plans to kick off another new strategy for the market: by launching several new classes for the public.

“We want to continue to be a community gathering place, and as part of that we’ll be expanding with master gardeners and others to do more education,” Boldt said.

This year, the farmers market has a $2,000 grant from New Seasons Market to do cooking demonstrations, and classes in canning and preserving that will be available to the public, he said.

Two vintners, Gougér Cellars & Winery and Klickitat Canyon Winery, plan to continue working with the state’s pilot program for wine tasting at the market this year as well. The program kicked off last fall and will run through October.

“It’s been very exciting,” said Gary Gougér, owner of Gougér Cellars in Vancouver. “Last year was absolutely great. People were enthusiastic. I didn’t hear a single negative thing.”

Vintners who sell at the market have to use only grapes grown in Washington in their products. Gougér has a selection of wines made from Washington grapes, but after the pilot is finished, he said he’d like to see the rules open up for all wines and beers that are made in the state, no matter where the ingredients come from.

“My whole thing is about blending different grapes, but I can’t sell those wines at the market,” Gougér said. “The law just needs to be tweaked a bit, I think. If the brewery or winery is in Washington, I think that should be good enough.”

Gougér has a store in downtown, so when visitors to the market want to check out some of his other wines, he refers them up the street to his tasting room.

“It’s been wonderful for my business,” he said. “It’s brought tons of people into my winery that never knew I was here before.”

Eventually, the market would like to work with some local brewers, as well, but the pilot program rules have made it somewhat difficult for them to get involved, Boldt said.

“Right now, we don’t have any beer,” he said. “We have the ability to sell beer, but we haven’t found any local brewers to partner with yet.”

There’s also some bad news for fans of the fledgling east-side Vancouver Farmers Market. The market, which suffered from low attendance and some logistical problems, won’t be around in 2012, Boldt said.

“I think we need to develop a new strategy for that,” Boldt said. “I’m excited to see something on the east side come back, believe me. It’s still on our radar screen. It just won’t be this year.”

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; sue.vorenberg@columbian.com;http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo.