The Vancouver Farmers Market was back in business for its 32nd season Saturday with a bevy of new vendors whose enterprises launched or grew quickly during the coronavirus pandemic.
William and Jocelyn Stauffer of Washougal said they started Windy River Livestock as a home business nearly a decade ago, but watched it really take off over the past couple of years. A loyal customer base has developed for their meats in east county and at the Vancouver Farmers Market, where they started vending in 2019, they said.
“People want to know where their foods come from and who is growing it,” said Jocelyn.
It’s a dream come true for William, who grew up on a local dairy farm and always wanted to get back to farming, he said. Now, he’s getting ready to quit his job as a traveling welder and settle into Windy River Livestock as his only occupation.
Casey Kramer and Kelly Fordice had an even less likely story to tell about Wood and Soil, their startup plant-basket and -hanger business.
Both bartenders who got laid off from Vancouver establishments due to the pandemic, Kramer and Fordice said they had to figure out how to keep cash flowing so they could feed their two young daughters.
Kramer is a woodworker and Fordice has “an obsession with plants,” she laughed, and one day inspiration struck as Kramer recycled an old wood chair into a stylish, curvy, slightly “boho” hanging plant basket that friends and internet viewers fell for immediately.
Now, the couple – who used to work opposite bartending shifts – work together at home and have more time for their children, they said.
“It’s a lot more gratifying than serving drinks,” said Kramer.
While the coronavirus pandemic has made managing the Vancouver Farmers Market more expensive and complicated than ever before, executive director Jordan Boldt said, it’s turned out to be surprisingly good for many local vendors and wannabes. While some have dropped out, many new vendors have arrived as unemployed people have turned hobbies into moneymakers or grown small home enterprises into full-time ones. There are nearly 200 vendors on the Vancouver Farmers Market list for this year.
Also, Boldt said, increased concern about healthy food and widespread anxiety about indoor supermarket shopping have driven more shoppers to farmers markets.
“There is so much interest in local food and in shopping outside,” he said. “People have been worried about things like supply lines and possible shortages. This is a moment in history when people see the value of community and the value of supporting local businesses.”
Health and safety – both individual and planetary – were on shopper Autumn Sorenson’s mind as she lined up for an artisan pie base made by Pizza Crust Creations.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned about how global warming is affecting our food,” she said. “It’s better to shop local. It’s better for everything.”
“We knew that before,” added her friend Mary Miller, “but the pandemic has forced us to act on that knowledge.”
Shop at home
You don’t even have to visit the market to go shopping – but you must pick up online orders on Sundays. The market is continuing its popular online market, which launched last year, Boldt said. Browse and order from vendors at your convenience during the week – completing your order no later than 8 p.m. Thursday – and a box will be packed and prepared for curbside pickup between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday outside the Slocum House on West Sixth Street, where parking is reserved.
Or, subscribe to a weekly Market Box of fruits and vegetables – small boxes for $20, large boxes for $30 – for summer only, fall only, or the entire season. Eggs and flower bouquets can be added for more. It’s similar to the way subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture farm works, Boldt said. Pickup is also Sundays at the Slocum House. Visit www.vancouvermarketbox.com to learn more.
People who use SNAP funds will appreciate that matching funds have doubled this year, to $40, thanks to grant support from the state. “A customer can redeem $40 from their EBT card and receive a total $80 in purchasing power for food,” Boldt said.
Basic pandemic safety protocols have not changed at the market since last year. “We’re asking that only service animals come to the market, and we’ll have handwashing sinks and sanitizer available for people to use,” Boldt said.