Port Orchard Farmers Market begins

The sun is out. The birds are chirping. The white tents near Marina Park in downtown Port Orchard will soon be hoisted into the sky.

The Port Orchard Farmers Market kicks off its 2012 market season 9 a.m. Saturday.

The unofficial harbingers of spring, farmers market vendors will set up shop in the parking lot between Amy’s on the Bay Restaurant and Marina Park two weeks earlier than normal this year.

Many of the more than 50 vendors of flowers, produce, fish, plants and everything else in between view the early opening as a way to sooner get outdoors and start selling their wares.

“I wasn’t sure about the early start at first because I thought the mornings would be too cold,” said market vendor Ilene Elvis. “But the nice weather has the perennials in bloom. Everything will be looking great.”

Elvis is the owner of Garden Treasurers, a local gardener selling more than 400 varieties of hardy sedums, sempervivums and other plants. Elvis, a Gorst native, has operated a booth at the farmers market for 15 years.

The market makes up all of Elvis’ business. But more than a way to make money, she sees market season as a time to gather with friends and fellow venders.

“It’s a big family,” she said. “With the customers and the sellers.”

Elvis is hoping nice weather holds out for the earlier than normal opening. The market, which has operated since 1978, can face some pretty cold mornings early in the spring, she said.

The President of the Port Orchard Farmers Market, KC Pearson, said vendors and customers could see a few cold days at the start of the season. But farmers market vendors voted in October to open the market earlier to align with other markets in the area that usually open the first week of April, Pearson said. The extra time will give plant vendors more time to sell spring shoots.

This year the market is working on adding more live music and more events to draw in a crowd. The market will celebrate Mother’s Day with music and a table set up for children to work on craft projects May 12.

Tom Farmer, of Tom Farmer Oyster Farms, has manned a booth at the Port Orchard Farmers Market for 29 years. He sells fresh manilla clams and Pacific oysters from the Hood Canal, Case Inlet and Hammersley Inlet.

Though he’s participated in farmers markets in Silverdale, Bremerton and all around the Kitsap Peninsula, he said he prefers the Port Orchard Farmers Market because of the down home feel and local atmosphere.

He said the market has improved tremendously from the small operation he once knew.

“There’s a bigger variety,” he said. “The quality of the homemade products is a key draw for folks.”

Farmer was amazed how well the market’s attendance has been in the past couple of years, even with the down economy.

Randy Raub of Randy’s Nursery off Bethel Burley Road said he’s not sure if he will make it to the Port Orchard Farmers Market this year. He operates at the Gig Harbor Farmers Market which opened on April 7. The Gig Harbor market has historically been the stronger of the two markets, but that his wife likes to set up a booth in Port Orchard when they have the inventory, he said.

Similar to many vendors, Raub has to juggle market schedules and days to find what works best for his business.

“We like both markets,” he said. “If we have enough time, we go to both.”

Pam Buck, the owner of Raincreek Pottery and Poultry, will operate a booth at the market for the first time in 12 years.

She said she was lured back to the market because of the market’s strong family environment.

Raincreek Pottery and Poultry sells homemade pottery and handcrafted soaps.

The business also sells live chickens from 14 different breeds. She said live chickens are not best as an impulse buy, so customers who show interest at the market are usually referred back to their home farm. She said the farmer’s market can broaden her customer base, and they  were drawn back to the market because of the loyal customers that return each year.

And even for those who aren’t shopping around for a live-and-clucking chicken, the little yellow birds pecking in their cage adds to the overall appeal, she said.

“It’s a great Saturday outing,” she said.


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