The drizzly autumn chill Saturday didn’t deter patrons of Vancouver’s inaugural Fall Farmers Market who braved the changing season to shop local goods and produce.
“Business has been just fine,” said Charlotte Barnes, the owner of Sunrise Bagels Bakery who manned the booth with her two sons while bundled up in a parka on Saturday morning.
By this point in the year, the outdoor market near Esther Short Park would usually have wrapped up and moved indoors. But Vancouver Farmers Market staff decided to deviate from the norm in 2020 and extend an abbreviated version of the outdoor market into December.
“With COVID-19, that was such a blessing,” Barnes said.
Jordan Boldt, the market’s executive director, said that the decision to extend the event this year stemmed from the pandemic. The usual vendor activities that move indoors as the temperature dips, like the annual Holiday Market at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, are canceled this year due to COVID-19.
“We obviously saw sort of the writing on the wall that indoor events would not be happening this year, so we were trying to figure out what to do,” Boldt said.
Vendors adapted to the changing season. There wasn’t a peony in sight at Saturday’s market — instead, florists arranged bouquets filled with kale cabbage blooms. Gone was produce stand asparagus, replaced with pumpkin and butternut squash. Knitwear vendors replaced T-shirt stands.
The extended outdoor market gives vendors the chance to make up some of the lost funds they missed when the market’s usual springtime debut was delayed by six weeks. That’s true for the individual vendors, Boldt said, but it also applies to the larger market organization.
“We’ve had way lower than half-capacity,” Boldt said. “We want additional days to sell.”
The usual circumstances this year also posed an opportunity to take a step toward a farmers market that runs 12 months a year.
“Our ultimate goal is to be operating a year-round farmers market in Vancouver,” Boldt said. “This is sort of our first foray into that.”
Instead of the usual weekend-long affair, the fall market will be kept to truncated hours, running from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays only.
This week, 61 vendors participated, about 10 fewer than a typical summer market day, Boldt continued. He anticipates that number will hold pretty steady through the rest of the fall market, with surges the weekend before and after Thanksgiving.
“We’ll see some peaks and valleys,” Boldt said. “Weather always plays a role.”
Barnes said that Sunrise Bagels has been participating in a couple of Vancouver-area farmers markets over the last three months. It helped the business, she said, but it also helped her family’s overall mental health — the markets present a low-risk opportunity for the community to come together, something that’s been sorely lacking.
“Not only did they help us financially get through the lockdown, but emotionally, as well,” Barnes said.
Conny Riley, the jewelry maker behind Real to the Roots in Ridgefield, said the market was a welcome break from quarantine.
“People are just having a good time,” Riley said, working at her booth filled with leather and metal earrings and cuffs.
“Everybody’s just happy they can go somewhere.”
The fall market will be held weekly, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through Dec. 19. It’s located on West Eighth Street and West Esther Street near Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.