Farmers market ends year strong

Nonprofit weathers rumors, troubles, closes with more than $121,000 on hand

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter



If you go


• HARVEST MARKET, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the usual location, Sixth and Esther streets. Local late-season produce, baked goods, meats and more.

• HOLIDAY MARKET, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, inside the Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St. Artisan products, baked goods, gifts.

• On the Web:

It had management troubles and nasty rumors, unexpected expenses and inevitable controversies, but the Vancouver Farmers Market looks on track to finish 2013 in excellent shape.

That's what elected officers and the director of the beloved downtown nonprofit told a general membership meeting Thursday.

The market now has $324,689 in cash on hand, according to treasurer Steve Cronbaugh. After expenses, there have been $121,591 in net revenues so far during 2013. That number has been virtually unchanged every year for the past four years, he said. Those numbers are for the nonprofit market organization itself -- not the individual vendors, who do not report their sales figures. But executive director Jordan Boldt said he heard "great things" from vendors about this year, and the vendors and members in attendance at the meeting, which was held at the Water Resources Education Center, didn't raise any objections or complaints.

Vancouver Farmers Market current board of directors

Jim Mains — president (community member, term expires in December)

Dean Jackson — vice president (Heavenly Hands Massage)

Steve Cronbaugh — treasurer (Columbia River Coffee)

Bill Belden (community member)

Dana Blair (A Glass Act)

Naomi Camargo (community member)

Joseph Estaquio (community member)

Renee Kreinbring (Little Farms)

Mike Kretzschmar (community member)

Robert Phillips (Patty’s Kettle Corn)

Steve Valenta (Mighty Bowl)

Greg Whitson (Whits End Creations)

The cordial atmosphere was a marked difference from meetings earlier this year and at the end of last year, when board resignations were plentiful, tensions were high and

rumors were flying. When a mostly vacant board undertook a rewrite of the organization's bylaws last winter and spring, many vendors complained that they felt underrepresented and that the board was operating without any real accountability.

"There was a lot of drama, a lot of miscommunication," said Boldt. "It was a really tough time for us."

The board responded by rapidly appointing several new members, representing both vendors and the community at large. As of Thursday's meeting, the board has 12 members. There are still three vacant board seats that are set aside for farmers, but Boldt said no market farmers ran for them. The board can fill those seats by appointment if need be, Boldt said.

The board is "more stable and more transparent," said vice president Dean Jackson. "It's actually nice to be on the board now. We got our house in order."

Boldt mentioned some other farmers market accomplishments during the past year: its program to accept and match food stamp benefits has grown tremendously, with nearly $48,000 in food stamps spent at the market in 2013. The market survived the unpredictable reconstruction of Sixth Street, which repeatedly displaced vendors. Vendors donated 3 tons of food to the Clark County Food Bank. And the market strengthened its relationship with the city, Boldt said, and came away with a new street-use permit that gives more autonomy to the market and is good through 2018.

Boldt said he was in Olympia regularly in this year and lobbied to pass a law that allows wine tasting at farmers markets in the state. That has already helped local wine sales at the market skyrocket, he said.