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Farmers Market begins new season with a new manager

Caleb Johns, the new market manager, and Jordan Beck will share duties until Beck, the interim manager, transitions out of the position in May. - Tom Conway Photo
Caleb Johns, the new market manager, and Jordan Beck will share duties until Beck, the interim manager, transitions out of the position in May.
— image credit: Tom Conway Photo

Farmers Market will kick off its 2014 season with a new manager, new vendors and an eye on future possibilities.

“It’s very exciting,” said Jordan Beck, the market’s current manager. “The market has some great developments happening and in the works this year.”

Most notable is the recent hiring of islander Caleb Johns to fill the market manager position. Beck, who stepped in temporarily when the previous manager quit suddenly last year, plans to transition out of the job in May because she is due to have a baby in June.

Beck explained that while some may have the impression that the market manager position is not a good job because of the high turnover rate in recent years, she attributes the recent vacancies to life circumstances, not issues with the job.

“People want this job. We had at least 20 legitimate applications.” Beck said. “It was a really great group of people to choose from.”

Nan Wilson, president of the Vashon Island Growers’ Association (VIGA) board, agreed and explained that the recent hiring process was rigorous and involved two rounds of interviews.

Johns was VIGA’s first choice for new manager, she said.

“He’s brilliant. He has a lot of energy and he’s systematic in his approach to things,” she said. “We believe he has a skill set that will allow us to grow the market through social media, branding and knowing how to sell.”

Johns, a restaurant management consultant at May Kitchen & Bar, was born and raised on Vashon and is the son of the late Geoff Johns, a well-known Vashon musician and educator who died last year, and stepson of Carol Lutra-Johns, a regular farmers market vendor herself.

“I am really excited about this,” Johns said. “I’ve been considering this as something that I’d like to do for several years now, and this year I managed to work things out in the rest of my life so that it would work.”

Johns, who has also worked at other restaurants, including Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill, hopes that his experience in the hospitality industry proves helpful in his new role.

“The key is going to be working with the vendors and farmers to make every market so that customers like to be there. I need to do what I can to make sure that everyone has support and whatever they need to make this happen,” he said.

The market manager position is part-time, and Johns will continue to work at the restaurant. Both jobs offer flexibility, which Johns says works well for his goals and for keeping his energy focused on the Vashon community.

Along with a new manager, the market welcomes some new vendors this year, including Dragon’s Head Cider and Laurie’s Love Bars, which are food bars made from scratch and include nuts, seeds dried fruit and spices.

VIGA’s strategic planning committee has several items on its agenda for the coming months, with a high priority on expanding the market’s local customer base. On the horizon, Beck said, could be changes to the market’s physical space, be it a new structure or possibly a new location. There will be customer surveys available for community input.

“This is the early stage of looking at what will bring more local consumers to the market,” she said. “And that includes looking at our old space with fresh eyes. The market wants to hear directly from the community.”

Farmers Market Opening Day

The farmers market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Village Green. The day will begin with an opening ceremony, include live music by Pat Reardon and Jenny Bell and pea plant starts to give away.

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