Port Townsend Farmers Market enjoys more sales, vendors ’09

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend Farmers Market vendors made $887,000 — up $85,000 from 2008 — during an extended 2009 season in which it added four Saturday market days.

“This was our biggest year ever,” said Will O’Donnell, director of the market which closed for the season Saturday.

“We saw our most vendors, most sales and most customers in 2009. It was a solid year of growth.”

The market had extended its season after Thanksgiving for its first-ever winter markets each Saturday from Nov. 28 through last Saturday.

Its Saturday market ran from May through December, while its Wednesday market was from June through September. The market is expected to reopen May 1 on Tyler Street in the Uptown District.

More vendors

In addition to sales, the market also grew in vendors this year, from 60 artisans and farmers in 2008 to 75 in 2009. Vendors sell farmed produce, crafts and other goods.

O’Donnell said that, although the market overall made more money than in other years, the average income per vendor was lower.

“The one thing we were down in was the average sales per vendor,” he said. “We saw that each vendor began to slip in this year.

“So while there was a bigger pot, everyone had a smaller piece in it.”

O’Donnell said there were many factors that caused the dip in average sales per vendor beyond the increased number of people selling goods.

“We are looking at a tough economy, and while we are looking at more people coming to the market, we are seeing people spend more modestly,” he said.

O’Donnell said that the use of food stamps and other government financial assistance had more than doubled in 2009 from 2008.

Ways to improve

As a result of the final figures, the market is focusing on what it can do to improve what it currently has rather than trying to increase total sales.

“We aren’t setting goals like getting to a million in total sales,” O’Donnell said.

“We aren’t really interested in growing the market per se but improving what we’ve got.

“We are trying to improve the market experience as a whole, both for the customers and for the vendors.

“What we’ve got is pretty impressive, and we need to focus on building that.”

O’Donnell said he and the board will poll members of the community and vendors on what needed to be improved for a better market experience.

Mountain View Commons

One idea in discussion is potentially moving the market to the field at the Mountain View Commons operated by the city of Port Townsend.

O’Donnell said a decision would be made soon. No move would be made until 2011.

Also, O’Donnell — the third director of the market in three years — said he intends to return for 2010.

“I’m still looking at the numbers, but I believe we are still the most successful market per capita in the state,” he said.

“In fact, I’m looking into it, and I believe we may have a chance at being the best per capita in the nation.

“I don’t have that on record yet, but I’m looking to prove it.

“For a population of about 9,000 people, we have an incredible farmer’s market taking place, and we still want to see more people in the community showing up, getting food from the market and eating locally.”

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Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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