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Kitsap farmers market season arrives sooner than warm weather

Kate Cummings with Pheasant Fields Farm in Silverdale, stands behind plants for sale at the Silverdale Farmers Market Tuesday. The market kicked off the season this week and runs through September. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Kate Cummings with Pheasant Fields Farm in Silverdale, stands behind plants for sale at the Silverdale Farmers Market Tuesday. The market kicked off the season this week and runs through September.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

One Tuesday last June, it was so windy and rainy that Silverdale Farmers Market manager Monica Phillips canceled the market. Two vendors however braved the conditions and set up their tents. After an hour, one was left, selling his Belfair-grown produce as if he were working at a fast food drive-thru joint.

“People were driving up and rolled down their windows, pointed and said, ‘I want that and that,’” Phillips said Monday recalling the event. “They shopped from their cars.”

She’s hoping that this year the weather will be a bit better. And not only for the sake of vendors standing outside selling on Tuesdays, but for the entire season so that farmers are able to produce their best quality of crops and provide a large quantity. The Silverdale Farmers Market opened for its 13th season Tuesday in Old Town, and an echoing theme among farmers is that the weather needs to warm up.

“We have everything growing, they are just not big enough to sell,” Jean Schanen of Start Now Gardens in Bremerton said. “There are lots of plants that can live in cooler climate but they aren’t getting enough sunlight to be ready for market.”

Schanen and her husband, Glenn Huff, are first-time vendors in Silverdale — they had only been selling at the Bremerton Farmers Market in the past — and sold produce including lettuce, kale, beets and spinach Tuesday. The cold weather hasn’t stopped what they are able to grow, just how much of it.

“It slows everything down. Most everything will be later than usual this year,” Schanen said.

Hopefully by the time the Bremerton Farmers Market opens next month, the weather will warm up. It is scheduled to open May 5 at Evergreen Park. Julia Zander, market manager, said Tuesday that she has about 31 vendors signed up with several more inquiring about joining. And she is also hearing comments from farmers about the ill-fit growing weather.

“It’s just going to be a matter of what items will be there first,” Zander said, adding that the market’s website will be updated weekly informing residents on what farmers will have available at the market.

For now, fingers are crossed that the cold-spell will end.

“We had it wet last year, this year it is the cold,” said Nikki Johanson of Pheasant Fields Farm in Silverdale.

Johanson has been selling at the market for about the last five years. Because of the cold weather, she said their tomato collection is half the size of what it was this time last year. Even though they grow in a greenhouse, she said that the house has not warmed up from the available solar heat.

To help other crops stay warm from the wind chill, Johanson said they place medal wire hoops over the rows of plants and cover them in plastic. The devices are known as hoop houses and protect crops from the harsh elements. She said they started using hoop houses two years ago.

“I hope that it warms up, and that we don’t have so many extremes,” Johanson said, recalling a hot spell last year that damaged her pumpkin crop.

Weather woes aside, the Silverdale Farmers Market boasted about 30 vendors Tuesday with many continuing to sign up, Phillips said. In addition to Kitsap farmers selling their produce, eastern Washington farmers will bring berries and melons, not easily grown in Kitsap, she added. About one third of the vendors are from outside of the county.

New this year to the Silverdale Farmers Market is children’s activities. Two vendors have teamed up to provide a variety of art-related projects for kids at the market, Philips said. In past years, there was always at least three children’s activities available throughout the season, but this year they will be available every week. And in addition to farmers selling fresh produce, other vendors include craft and jewelry sellers to dessert and sandwich vendors.

While running the Silverdale Farmers Market, Phillips has also been actively looking for a location to have a covered year-round market.

And she’s not the only one.

“My dream is to see a year-round covered market. The county is ready for it and needs it,” Johanson said.

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