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Silverdale Farmer's Market now has room to grow

Al Mottl, 66, of Port Orchard, sits on the back of the box truck he uses to haul plants, vegetables and fruit to the Silverdale Farmer’s Market. Mottl has sold his products at the Silverdale market for the last five years and is looking forward to its new location on the Silverdale waterfront. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Al Mottl, 66, of Port Orchard, sits on the back of the box truck he uses to haul plants, vegetables and fruit to the Silverdale Farmer’s Market. Mottl has sold his products at the Silverdale market for the last five years and is looking forward to its new location on the Silverdale waterfront.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Before landing its new location at the Silverdale Waterfront, the Silverdale Farmer's Market had problems with parking, visibility and cramped space for vendors.

Market organizer Monica Phillips, owner of Kataluma Chai, has found success may stem from the old adage, "location, location, location."

The market opens at its new location at the Port of Silverdale waterfront April 20 and will run every Tuesday through September.

"We had been looking for a bigger place, a more permanent place," she said of the old spot behind the Silverdale Beach Hotel.

That new place found her, instead.

The Silverdale Port Commissioners asked Phillips last summer if she would be willing to relocate the market to the parking lot and grass area between the boat launch and dock. The grassy area is being eyed as a place for a 9/11 memorial, but Phillips said the market won't interfere with the possible erection of the memorial next year.

She said the area behind the hotel was susceptible to high winds, which proved to be a problem for most vendors who operate in tents or under tarps.

The wind became such an issue that Nikki Johanson decided two years ago to stop selling at the market. Johanson owns and operates Pheasant Fields Farm in Silverdale.

"It was so cold and cutting," she said.

Now, Johanson said she will give the new location a try and will set up her tent next week to sell everything from ripe vegetables to duck eggs.

Bad experiences aside, Johanson said she believes there is more demand for fresh food and it's good business to be at the market.

"It's a good thing, we should be there," she said, adding that the market provides farmers like herself the chance to interact directly with consumers. "It's an opportunity for people to get the freshest food they are going to find."

The market, now in its 12th year, used to pull in customers from Bainbridge Island to Gig Harbor. After gas prices began rising and parking became an issue in the Old Town district, the number of customers started declining, Phillips said.

The waterfront location will house more vendors, and comfortably — 57 up from 24 — and could bring back those customers from across the county.

Phillips said she has already heard from Eastern Washington farmers interested in selling produce unavailable from local growers.

It used to be a chore to get vendors to bring their goods to the market, especially during months of questionable weather, Phillips said. Ever since word spread of the move however, vendors have been knocking on her door.

"It's the first time we haven't had to beat the bushes for vendors," she said, adding she had vendors signed up as early as October.

Some area markets are on different days, so farmers often sell their produce at other markets through the week.

Bremerton's market is open Thursdays. Poulsbo, Port Orchard and Bainbridge hold their markets Saturdays.

Each of the markets have their own niche, and Silverdale is no different, said Shannon Harkness. She used to sell her own products at the Silverdale market, and now primarily works for Johanson.

"All have their different flavor," she said. "Silverdale does a good job of fulfilling the need for fresh products."

Regardless of the market's location, the quality of the food has some customers coming back for more.

"The produce is off the hook," said Deena Brown, 48, of East Bremerton. She said the locally grown food culture has caught on and customers are more aware of the benefits of shopping the market instead of the local grocery store. "It's about bringing fresh stuff to your table," she said.

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