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Opening of farmers market heralds the start of spring
By LINDSAY HART
For The Beachcomber
As the sun lingers longer and seeds awaken, our farmers return to the Village Green. Believe it or not, it’s time for an important rite of spring — the opening day of the Vashon Farmers Market, which takes place this Saturday. To make the event even more propitious, our first day this year coincides with the official start of spring.
In the spirit of this season of renewal, the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) is looking for ways to renew and strengthen our ties to the community. During this year’s market, we are doing more than offering delicious, fresh-from-the-farm produce. We’ll also plant seeds of knowledge about our nation’s growing food crisis and cultivate our customers’ understanding of why local farming is so important.
Look for “food for thought” on signage at the market, on our Facebook page and Web site. Most importantly, talk to our farmers. Ask them why they are so passionate about preserving our nation’s family farm heritage. Rest assured, it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. The majority of Vashon’s farmers work another full-time job to subsidize their growing habit. Most small farms take in less than $10,000 a year, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Of course, the pressure on family farms extends beyond our shores. The number of family-owned farms in Washington state has increased slightly in the last few years (about 6 percent), but that follows two decades of steady decline. Even with a growth in the number of farms, the total farm acreage in Washington has fallen. Additionally, census data indicate that the number of full-time family farmers fell from around 17,500 in 1987 to under 14,000; of those farmers remaining, a third are over age 55 and approaching retirement in the next decade.
The good news is that you can help and satisfy your taste buds at the same time.
In addition to buying local produce at the market or from our Island’s many farm stands, you have a new way to support local agriculture. VIGA has created “Friends of the Market” memberships at different levels that come with a small thank-you gift. The money raised through memberships will keep the market vibrant with music, educational programs and activities for kids and adults.
Please make a point of joining us between now and Dec. 11, when this year’s season ends. We’re adding additional special events each month, including an Earth Day salute in April and a lavender celebration in July. If you’ve never been, you owe yourself the experience. We’ll help you discover the joy of eating produce while it’s fresh and in season. Learn why corn eaten shortly after being picked is the sweetest. Revel in the complex flavors of a ripe heirloom tomato. And come to understand why onions grown using organic methods and driven a scant mile down the road leave the daintiest of carbon footprints.
Your neighboring farmers and artisans invite you to help us welcome spring this Saturday with the opening of the year’s Farmers Market on the Village Green. We’ll have free soup and plant starts while they last. But most importantly, we’ll offer a fertile space to renew our ties to one another and our community.
— Lindsay Hart chairs the Vashon Island Growers Association
board of directors.