As the first mayor of Liberty Lake, Steve Peterson knows a few things about the role of a city in community development. As the co-proprietor of the Crepe Café – a staple at the Liberty Lake Farmers Market for the past six years – Peterson understands what it takes to develop a sense of community.
Peterson and his wife Charmaine have been setting up shop along North Meadowwood Lane each Saturday, from May through early October, since 2004. The couple serves the thin pancakes with a variety of toppings, from raspberry to cinnamon.
|Vegetable starts and freshly cut flowers were part of the opening day lineup at the Liberty Lake Farmers Market last Saturday. Market venues in both Millwood and Liberty Lake – showcasing locally grown produce, crafts, music and other features – opened this month and will run through autumn. Photo by: Craig Howard
“It’s been fun,” Peterson said. “The market is a great community gathering place. I think it’s added a lot to the city.”
Peterson still talks politics occasionally with marketgoers, although the rate of municipal chatter has subsided since he lost to Wendy Van Orman at the ballot in 2007. After a final appearance this week, Peterson will also turn over the reins of the Crepe Café – although a set of new owners will carry on the tradition.
“We just thought it was time for a change,” Peterson said. “We’ll still be back to visit the market, though.”
When they do drop by, the Petersons will be part of an average crowd in the neighborhood of over 1,300 according to Angelo Pizelo, market manager. The total attendance count from 2009 exceeded 31,000 with overall sales up 8 percent.
For the past four years, a survey has been conducted in Liberty Lake by Rapid Market Assessments, typically in late June or early July. On July 8, 2006, the market featured 30 vendors and drew 990 visitors with total sales at $6,897. Nearly four years later, on June 27, 2009, revenue was up to $9,372 with 31 vendors and 1,104 in attendance.
Pizelo said part of the venue’s success is making sure everyone feels at home.
“We have chairs and tables where people can just relax,” she said. “There’s a real social element to it.”
Now in its 10th year, the market originated as an idea of Greenstone Homes CEO Jim Frank who had seen successful community markets in New Zealand and hoped to establish a similar site in Liberty Lake. Pizelo said market organizers continue to emphasize local produce – well over half the vendors each week represent area farms. The result is a course in Nutrition 101, beginning with the revelation that food doesn’t grow on grocery shelves.
“It’s pretty educational,” Pizelo said. “Most of the produce at the market was picked the day before.”
Most visitors to the market are not looking to spend a fortune according to last year’s survey. Some 29 percent spent around $10 while 39 percent were closer to $20. Only 27 percent spent $30 or more. Half of those in attendance were from Liberty Lake while 23 percent came from Spokane Valley. Just under 10 percent drove west from Idaho to pay a visit.
Pizelo said the market lost two farmers this year who moved their booths at the Spokane Farmers Market in downtown Spokane, now on Fifth Avenue.
Last Saturday, at the first installment of the Liberty Lake site featured fresh cut flowers, vegetable plant starts, pottery, artisan breads and the usual variety of ready-to-eat food including burritos and pizza.
One location that does not compete with Liberty Lake or any other Saturday venue is the Millwood Farmers Market, which celebrated the beginning of its fourth year this Wednesday. Located off Argonne in the center of Millwood, the site is open each Wednesday, from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We’ve got the strongest lineup of farmers since we started three years ago,” said Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, who helps coordinate the market.
Goodwin said most of the visitors to the market hail from Millwood and the surrounding West Valley area. He added that attendance this year should benefit from the completion of the Argonne Road resurfacing project last summer.
A total of 30 vendors are on board for the 2010 season. Booths continue to be a bargain at an area-low charge of $10 per week. In addition to the usual array of fresh fruits and vegetables, booths will feature jewelry, soaps and handcrafted wool yarns. Homemade salsa and huckleberries are also part of the menu this year.
“The market provides a great place to get fresh natural food, gather with friends and speak with the farmer who actually grew your dinner,” said David McCullough, one of several area vendors who set up displays each Wednesday.
Liberty Lake and Millwood are among 90 farmers markets throughout Washington that accept coupons through the women, infants and children’s program which provides nutritional supplements for low-income families.
Both sites also accept vouchers from the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition program. More information on the WIC and seniors’ discounts is available through the Spokane Valley Food Bank at 927-1153.
Want to find out more?
The Liberty Lake Farmers Market runs 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday from May 15 through Oct. 16 in the Liberty Square parking lot, 1421 N. Meadowwood Lane. For more information, call 879-4965 or visit www.spokanemarkets.org. The Millwood Farmers Market takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. each Wednesday at 3223 N. Marguerite. For more information, call or visit www.millwoodmarket.org.