Conference Call: Are farmers markets and produce stands an asset to the community?
Asked if the farmers markets and produce stands benefited the community, “definitely” was the unanimous answer of several vendors and the manager of the Pasco Farmers Market.
“They involve local people, both the growers and their customers. It’s where you can get locally-grown produce that’s truly farm fresh. Look at what’s here,” Mike Somerville said, gesturing to the vendors. “Most of what’s here was harvested either last night or very early this morning.”
Somerville has managed the Pasco Farmers Market for 13 years and long before that sold his Petersons Honey as a vendor.
“The markets also help support the small family farms and keeps our money local,” Sylvia Albertin said. She owns Albertin’s Orchard in Kennewick and began selling at the Pasco Farmers Market in the late 1980s and now takes her produce to four to five different markets in the Tri-Cities every week.
Over the years Albertin has changed the products she grows and sells.
“My parents, who had the orchard before me, raised pretty much just apples. I still have apples but they’re different varieties than those my parents had. I’ve also added cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, and recently, pears and Asian pears,” she said.
The key, Albertin said, is to find out what your customers want and talk to other growers to find out what sells.
“You have to adapt and be diversified,” Albertin said.
Visiting markets and talking to the people who grow the produce is the best way to discover new and different varieties, as is tasting them and finding out what you like, Sue Flatau said. She and her family own Flatau Farms, a two-acre orchard in Basin City.
They raise cherries — mainly new varieties like Early Robin, Cashmere, Royal Hazel and Chelan.
“We grow just for the farmers markets and consider part of our marketing is to educate our customers. To get them to taste the different varieties and get to know them by name. A lot of people, the foodies, like being able to specify the variety that appeals to them. It’s like naming your favorite wine,” Flatau said.
Over the years, Albertin said, people have become detached from agriculture. Going to the markets and produce stands help them reconnect with the farmer.