It’s market season: Grab your shopping bags

Farmer’s markets throughout South Whidbey are opening for the season next weekend, making it official: summer has arrived.

The three local markets will bring back the fresh honey, cinnamon rolls, grass-fed beef and produce, arts, crafts, worms and worm “castings,” and even live chickens. All of it is local, fresh, and, for the most part, organic.

The markets aren’t just a place to buy food. They are weekly events, offering visitors an entertaining afternoon, providing local growers and crafts people an income for their work. Last year, the three local markets combined for nearly $500,000 in gross sales.

Typically, vendors pay daily or seasonal fees, plus 10 percent of their income to the market. Some vendors jump back and forth between markets to find new customers and meet other vendors.

Pam Mitchell, market manager for Bayview Farmer’s Market, said sales have been growing annually by about one-third at that market. More and more customers are taking advantage of the markets, she said.

“There are more people visiting the island, more people moving to the island, and more people learning about good, fresh non-contaminated foods,” Mitchell said.

In addition, more vendors are taking advantage of the markets. This year about 115 vendors will be available on any given weekend among South Whidbey’s three markets. More vendors can be found at markets in Coupeville and Oak Harbor.

It’s all for the vendors, said Issy Olivia, a market manager for Greenbank Farm.

“When it comes down to it, the vendors are all there promoting and helping each other,” she said, referring to all five of the markets. Each market tries to find its niche.

Olivia said she doesn’t see them in competition with each other. In fact, this year all five markets got together to create a coalition to advertise jointly.

Bayview Farmers' Summer Market

Bayview is the largest of South Whidbey’s markets, with about 60 vendors bringing in sales of about $270,000 last year. A typical Saturday last year brought from 1,000 to 1,500 people to wander through the market. On one big day, Mitchell said more than 2,000 people, along with 85 dogs, showed up.

Mitchell said she expects the numbers to rise again this year, largely because the market is expanding to Sundays.

“A lot of people said ‘I’d love to come to the market, but I’m so busy on Saturdays,’ ” she said. “And Sunday has a whole different pace to it.”

The Bayview market qualified this year for a state program that encourages seniors to take advantage of the fresh foods offered at farmer’s markets. Qualifying seniors are given coupons, which can be used to buy fresh produce, Mitchell said.

Bayview market hours will be Saturdays, May 1 through October, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays, May 8 through September, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors will be offering organic produce, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, plants, flowers, coffee beans, tea blends, preserves, honey, baked goods, hot food and crafts of all kinds. Lots of open parking and outside dining areas. There will be live music by local musicians and balloon animals by Matt the Stiltman. For information on this market, contact Pam Mitchell at 579-2181 or check out the Web site:

South Whidbey Tilth Market

The Tilth market, located at Thompson Road and Highway 525, is the oldest of the island’s markets. It spent 18 years at the Bayview location before moving to its new 11-acre site four years ago.

According to the dictionary, tilth is an old-English term synonymous with cultivate or tilling the soil, but Susan Prescott, of the Tilth market, says it’s more than that. It refers more to the quality of cultivated soil, she said.

The Tilth market is smaller than the other markets, but it is more pure as a farmer’s or grower’s market. Each of the markets have a different feel, Prescott said. While the other markets have substantial arts and crafts components, Tilth is more about produce, plants, and agricultural products.

Tilth brought in about $65,000 in gross sales last year and is expecting to have about 24 vendors this season. No figures were available as to how many people attended the market on a typical weekend.

Tilth will open for the season May 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Titambe marimba band, which plays traditional and contemporary music from Zimbabwe, will perform on opening day. Master Gardeners from Washington State University’s Extension Service, will hold a plant clinic each month, starting May 22. For further information, contact Market Manager Anne Smidt by e-mail at or call 730-1091.

Greenbank Farm Sunday Market

The Greenbank market is held Sundays at historic Greenbank Farm. The 100-year anniversary of the farm this year will bring special events all summer long, some of them coinciding with the farmer’s market.

The historic atmosphere of the farm and wine tasting helps define Greenbank’s market, setting it apart from the others, said Olivia. Visitors from all over the Northwest are attracted to the farm, she said.

“It’s got a great family atmosphere,” Olivia said.

It gets more visitors from the north end of the island, as well as a mix of vendors from throughout the county, she said. Last year the farmer’s market had gross sales of about $150,000, she said, with 300 to 500 people visiting on a typical weekend. But on holidays or when special events are occurring, the market can easily see more than 1,000 people, Olivia said.

The Greenbank market opens for the season May 2. There will be spring produce and crafts available along with free coffee and tea provided. The Sunday market continues through September 26 and is held outside at the field’s edge at Wonn Road and SR 525 in Greenbank. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact Market Managers Issy Olivia/Dory DeJong at flynhags@ or call 888-366-5655 or 222-3151 or 360-678-7700.

Coupeville Farmers' Market

The Coupeville market has been in full swing since April 3. Now is the time to pick up potted trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals (flower and veggie starts) which are available for gardens and yards. The market also has early season vegetables, baked goods, and lots of crafts including yard art, handcrafted jewelry, and local watercolor pictures. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Market Manager Peg Tennant by email at or call 360-678-4288.

Oak Harbor's Thursday Market

The Oak Harbor market opens June 3 and will continue every Thursday through September 30 from 4-7 p.m. It is located on State Route 20 next to the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center. A vendor meeting for sign up and orientation will be May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the site. Market lay out will be discussed. For information, contact Market Manager Peg Tennant at or call Sheila Case-Smith at 360-675-0472.

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