Joey DeFalco – Print Managing Editor
Rain or shine, the Vancouver Farmers Market operates at full capacity, with an assortment of food carts, handmade craft goods and tables boasting vibrantly colored produce.
The Vancouver Farmers Market will be opening their harvest and holiday markets as their downtown market draws to a close. The harvest market will be open on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 6th and Esther street and the holiday market will be open on the weekend of Nov 23. at the Hilton Hotel on West 6th street.
“It’s a really good opportunity for students to shop local, support local artisans in the holiday season and a really fun group for family activity,” said Market Manager Stephanie Haynes. Haynes, who said she developed an interest in local food and commerce while in college, encouraged students to come and “get involved in their community.” Haynes also said that the harvest and holiday markets would be a good opportunity for students to purchase fresh ingredients for autumn and winter holiday celebrations.
Haynes said that a main focus of the market and one of her passions is to support local farmers and commerce. The market offers a vendor scholarship program through which vendors can apply for financial assistance for academic endeavors related to their businesses. Market staff will also often visit vendor farms and promote them through social media, she said.
Farmers markets often have a reputation for being expensive and while some of the vendors can be pricey, the market supports Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, exchanging small wooden tokens that customers can use to make purchases. The market also matches the first five dollars purchased through EBT, an offer that can be redeemed once per weekend, and makes it easier for food stamp recipients to purchase healthy food.
Students who are interested in getting involved with the farmers market or are looking for an accessible place to complete volunteer hours can apply online for a variety of different volunteer positions which include outreach, cleaning, food donation collection, advertisement and planning.
“We always need help, as a small non-profit,” Haynes said. “Volunteers make a really big difference.”
There are also applications online to become a vendor; something “totally feasible,” for students according to Haynes, but which would require a business license, liability insurance and approval by a committee of other vendors and community members. Other details are listed online.
For students seeking work, Haynes said that vendors are always looking to hire since finding people to work consistently on weekends can be difficult. “The hardest part about being a small business owner is finding good employees,” she said.
Steve and Lindsay Inzalaco lease an acre of land in Camas where they started Shady Grove Farm. Steven Inzalaco said that one of the focuses of their farm was to create a diverse and healthy farm ecosystem, as well as to grow organic produce and sell directly to the market. Shady Grove avoids uncommon produce such as exotic peppers, in favor of “broad, everyday stuff,” such as carrots, lettuce and potatoes, he said.
Inzalaco said that he considers their start-up farm lucky to be have their USDA Organic Certification within their first operating year. Normally, he said, the process can be take about three years, requiring extensive background records on the land and previous farming practices. However, the operation which leased the land before the Inzalacos had already been certified organic, meaning that Shady Grove’s certification was fast-tracked.
Although the USDA certification was made easier, Inzalaco said that getting the farm up and running was an arduous process. As of March 2018, Shady Grove Farm was just an acre of hard to remove grass and tilling did not begin until late April. However, with a carefully managed seeding calendar and practices learned from a farm apprenticeship program in Santa Cruz, California, they were able to produce a sizeable harvest for their first farmers market at the beginning of July.
The farm operates on a three year rolling lease and the Inzalacos said that they plan on continuing to grow their farm for the foreseeable future. In addition to the Vancouver Farmers Market, Shady Grove Farm participates in the Camas Farmers Market and in a community supported agriculture (CSA) weekly veggie box.
Kelly Peters and Patrick Dorris run Flat Tack Farm, a small scale farm to table operation with a focus on heirloom and traditional varieties of vegetables. Dorris’ pet project within the operation is a large assortment of peppers, ranging from sweet to spicy and boasting an array of bright, flashy colors.
“Our goal is to produce local, delicious food that’s good for you,” Peters said.
The pair began leasing about an acre of land from Heathen Estate in northern Vancouver a little over a year ago, after returning from their travels in Australia and New Zealand where they discovered a love of food and sustainable agriculture. Eventually, she said, they hope to grow the farm to the point where they can own their own property.
Peters said that their experience with the Vancouver Farmers Market has been positive and that they intend to participate in future events. She also encouraged interested students to visit their on-property farm stand as well as their CSA veggie boxes.