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VIGA board hires new farmers market manager
Johanna Guevin, a Georgia native who recently moved to the area from Sitka, Alaska, has been named the new manager for Vashon’s thriving weekly farmers market.
Guevin, 31, begins her new job March 1. She was selected for the part-time position from a pool of about 30 applicants, said Amy Hildebrandt, who chairs the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA), which runs the market.
VIGA board members said they were thrilled to be able to hire Guevin, who recently got a degree in food systems and sustainable agriculture from The Evergreen State College and who ran the farmers market in Sitka last summer.
Celina Yarkin, a VIGA board member, said Guevin “is an all-around good fit for the market. She’s also really wonderful, personable and warm. I think she’ll be great.”
Hildebrandt said she was particularly pleased that Guevin has experience in managing a farmers market. “We’re really lucky to have found her,” she added.
Guevin, who stopped by The Beachcomber’s office on Monday before dashing off to a VIGA board meeting, said she first discovered Vashon when she was attending Evergreen and, as part of her degree program there, toured most of the sustainable farms in the region. That tour took her to Vashon, where she visited Sea Breeze Farm, met Brandon Sheard of Farmstead Meatsmith and got to know the island.
“I was just enchanted by Vashon,” she said.
Her husband’s job took her to Sitka, where they lived in a log cabin in the woods and got involved in the Sitka Local Foods Network, she said. He’s deputy general manager for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, a job he’ll continue by splitting his time between Vashon and Sitka.
Guevin said she and her husband wanted to move to the Seattle area because of a number of family members live in the region. When she saw the farmers market position posted on VIGA’s website, she said, “It all just fell into place.”’
Guevin replaces Rebecca Wittman, an islander who held the market manager post last year and who replaced Allison Bockus. Bockus was the market manager for nearly two years.
The market grew significantly under both Wittman and Bockus’ management, said Merrilee Runyan, the former VIGA board chair. Last year alone, gross sales climbed 30 percent, she said; the prior year also saw double-digit growth. Runyan attributed the market’s recent successes to Wittman’s ad campaigns and use of social media as well as both Wittman and Bockus’ management skills.
What’s more, Runyan said, “Our farmers have really upped their game. They bring more food longer, create beautiful displays and offer a wide variety of stuff.”
But the turnover for the post of market manager has been high, Runyan acknowledged. The wage is low for the amount of work it entails and the job requires the manager to give up every Saturday from mid-April to mid-December, she said. As a result, VIGA is trying to figure out a way to “make the job a sustainable job,” Runyan said.
“We are looking at ways to raise some money. If we could pay a little more and make it a year-round job, we’d love to do that,” she said.