Farmers markets double as Tilth moves down the road

"South Whidbey residents will have two farmers markets to choose from each Saturday beginning next spring.Tilth, an organic farming organization which originated the South Whidbey Farmers Market more than 25 years ago, has chosen to go its own way rather than join a management structure appointed by Orach, Inc., the new owner of the traditional Bayview Corner site.Tilth plans to purchase 11 acres off Thompson Road, about half a mile down Highway 525 from Bayview Corner. Later this month Tilth members will move all its small buildings from Bayview Corner to the new location.“It’s going to be fun,” said Tilth president Judith Light. “There’s lots of energy behind doing a lot of things on the land. This is inspiring the membership.”Light does not believe the new Tilth market will be a competitor with Orach’s Bayview Corner market. “We need more opportunities for growers,” Light said. “It was getting pretty tight over at Bayview. This doesn’t need to be viewed as competition.” She suspects farmers market patrons will visit both markets each Saturday.It boils down to Tilth wanting to run its own show, rather than becoming part of a farmers market management group that will now oversee the Bayview Corner farmers market. That group will include representatives from Bayview Community Hall, Orach, Bayview Farm & Garden, two vendors representatives, and a community member.Michael Seraphinoff, a member of Tilth’s negotiating group which opted out of the management team, explained that Tilth would have lost control of its own market. “In a gentle way they did engage in a kind of takeover,” he said. “Either we meekly accept the takeover or we decide we still want to stay in the business.”In a vote earlier this month, the Tilth membership decided to retain its own market by moving to the new site. Light said there were 42 votes cast at the meeting, and while she didn’t have the exact results, “a very, very large majority” supported the decision.“We are preserving something we created in the form we created it,” Light said.Market vendors, of course, may be torn between which farmers market to sell at. “We don’t know who’s going to go where,” said Seraphinoff. “It’ll be kind of a circus the first year.” Nancy Nordhoff, founder of Orach, a non-profit organization which owns Bayview Corner, was out of state this week and unavailable for comment. Orach’s attorney, Linda Moore, expressed some disappointment that Tilth decided go its own way. But that won’t stop the Bayview Corner market. “We’re definitely having a farmers market at Bayview,” she said.Moore said the management group was simply an attempt to widen participation in running the farmers market, rather than limiting it to members of Tilth as in the past. “We’re trying to get everybody to share,” she said. “No one entity has a fiefdom. If they (Tilth) want to do their own thing on Thompson Road, okay.” But she said Tilth will be welcome to participate at Bayview Corner as well, perhaps through an educational booth.While Tilth readies its new farmers market site, the Bayview Corner management group will be making changes there. Planning is in the early stages, Moore said, but plans are to provide additional parking and build or bring in structures for the merchants to sell from, while retaining the traditional market’s character. “It’ll probably be the same mixture of arts/crafts and produce people,” she said."

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