PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Farmers Market will go into hibernation soon. But nobody should go without local growers’ produce this winter, said Amanda Milholland, the recently returned Jefferson County Farmers Markets manager.
Just three Port Townsend markets are left in 2021: this Saturday, and then Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., about 40 vendors are open at Tyler and Lawrence streets Uptown, Milholland said, and many sell goods that will last into the new year.
“There’s a great wealth of produce that does really well being stored,” she said, “so I’m using the last handful of markets to stock my pantry and my refrigerator.
“Carrots, beets, potatoes, winter squash, cabbage and Brussells sprouts last a long time in a cool, dark basement or room or refrigerator,” or even in a homemade root cellar. Instructions on how to make one of those can be found online, Milholland said.
“This is a really important time for local farms. They’re going into their planning time of year where they aren’t earning an income,” she added.
“Invest in them now,” Milholland said, “so they can show up next spring,” when the market reopens.
Throughout the season, the farmers market offers a matching program for people using SNAP and WIC benefits; shoppers can get details at the information booth at the front of the market, facing Lawrence Street, and at https://jcfmarkets.org under Food Access.
The Jefferson County Farmers Markets themselves are on the brink of a strategic planning effort, Milholland said, adding it’s been about 15 years since such one has taken place.
“We’re a really small nonprofit, looking at how to continue to stay true to our mission,” which is to connect farmers and artisans with a diverse customer base and, in so doing, promote a strong local economy.
The market, begun in a downtown parking lot nearly 30 years ago, has flowered and fruited like a strawberry field. A Sunday market in Chimacum was added while Port Townsend got an additional market on Wednesdays in summer and early fall.
Then came 2020. The coronavirus reshaped the scene, spaced out masked vendors and shoppers, cut the live music and cooking demonstrations and reduced sales. Overall revenue fell by nearly half, from $1,332,823 in 2019 to $710,363 by December 2020, according to then-manager Deirdre Morrison.
Recovery began this past spring.
The Saturday Port Townsend market had as many as 70 vendors during the peak of the season, Milholland reported; that’s up from a couple of dozen last year. Sales are still down 12 percent from 2019, however.
Vendors such as Sonya Zohar of Goddessa by Design are seeing thirsty customers. On a recent Saturday afternoon, she had nearly sold out of all of her jars of alternative milk beverages — 7 gallons’ worth, which she’d just pressed that morning.
“My fingers are about to fall off,” Zohar joked.
Milholland, for her part, is back after a break: In fall 2020, she left the market post she’d held for five years to become produce manager at the Port Townsend Food Co-op.
Morrison took the farmers market job soon after, and then left it last summer. Chimacum market manager Pat Milliman stepped in as interim chief, and then Milholland returned this October.
“The co-op was a great community of people,” she said, but she missed the work of developing the farmers market.
“I’m really glad to have the opportunity to come back, as we’re going through this transition” to strategic planning.
For a kind of season finale, Milholland has booked a trio of musicians to play the Dec. 18 Port Townsend Farmers Market: Matt Sircely, Jack Dwyer and newcomer Bobby Winstead will bring their voices and instruments to mix with the winter vegetables and Christmas wreaths.
These market participants, Milholland said, are all small businesses who reflect what’s made in this community; shopping among them “impacts the larger community and the economy.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]