The 2017 farmers market season on South Whidbey opened Saturday, flowing with the sweet sounds of marimba music and the even sweeter sounds of commerce.
Hundreds of people ignored gray skies and attended the season opener of the Bayview Farmers Market, hungrily scooping up vendors’ fresh produce, dairy products and other locally made treats.
“It’ll be a sell-out,” predicted Patrick Marshall of Whidbey Sweets-n-Tarts, just two hours into the four-hour market.
Marshall, a Freeland man, sells pastries with his wife Kathy. Theirs is always a popular stand at the market; customers either find themselves irresistibly drawn to the Marshalls’ booth and handing over their money or purposely keeping a distance. One woman approached only to snap a quick photo of a whoopie pie, a chocolate cake sandwich with a marshmallow buttercream filling, before quickly moving on.
“Less calories this way,” she laughed.
Financial statistics weren’t available Monday, as they are tallied mid-week, according to market Manager Sharon Warwick. She could say, however, that the Marshalls weren’t the only vendors to report a lucrative season start.
“It was slammed,” Warwick said. “We had several vendors who sold out and several vendors who had record days. So my guess is we had a fantastic opening day.”
The live marimba music performed by a host of musicians from the Rubatano Center in Langley was a big attraction. People of all ages gathered around the players, clapped and occasionally danced to the beats.
“These guys are great,” said Dan Phillips, a Langley resident.
He was there with his wife Rachel, and their three children: twin 3-year-old boys Tate and Henry, and 1-year-old Finnegan.
Produce stands were also popular. At Skyroot Farm, Arwen Norman seemed particularly busy selling mixed greens, rhubarb, radishes, spinach, bok choy and more.
Among her customers were Langley residents India and Garry Rassner-Donovan. They said they look forward to farmers markets every year, frequenting many on the South End for the fresh and locally grown produce.
For others, it was a relatively new Whidbey experience. Freeland residents Avery and Dennis Holzer said they moved to the island last year and that this was their second time to the Bayview market. Supporting local agriculture and eating healthy are things they value, and “people watching is kinda fun” too, Dennis Holzer said.
The quality of vendors was also impressive, they said.
“There’s a pastry guy over there who makes killer stuff,” she said with a laugh. “I need to stay away from him.”
As for Norman, a busy opening day is always a good thing but particularly this year. She was nervous about the spring crop due to April’s heavy rains. Her produce gets its start in a greenhouse and is then moved to fields. Last month’s downpours, however, delayed that transfer.
“Our greenhouse was bursting at the seams with greens but we had no place to put them,” Norman said.
The weather cooperated just in time, she said, and it was great to see so many “regular” customers and how “excited” they were to have fresh food.
Warwick said those two things are a big part of why farmers markets are successful. Cabin fever and entertainment, such as live marimba music, are likely factors in a busy opening day but it’s more about people and shared values. Markets are a community gathering place, she said, and public support for locally made and grown goods seems to increase every year.
Putting all those factors together, she said it’s no surprise the 2017 season started so strong.
“This is the heartbeat of the South End at the moment,” Warwick said.