The basketful of good news at Bellingham Farmers Market is that it has one of the best infrastructures of farmers markets in the state.
Caprice Teske should know. The market director since 2009, she visits other markets and networks with their directors.
“A lot of markets smaller than ours struggle,” she says. “We have the benefit of support from our community and from the City of Bellingham, and we’re a strong, successful, and self-sufficient organization financially.”
As February began, Teske and her review committee had just finished their review of vendor applications. Each year, they receive 35 to 50 new applicants and review their products to ensure they fit their guidelines and don’t compete directly with other vendors.
“We’re looking for a high-quality level of handcrafted-ness and for products made in Whatcom or Skagit counties,” Teske says. “Everything edible that we review, we taste.”
The biggest challenge is trying to fill holes in the schedule once vendors indicate when they want to sell.
“Not every vendor comes every weekend, and farmers come at varying times,” Teske says. “For example, our hanging-basket vendors only have a three-week season, and some of our crafters only vend once or twice a month. They select all those dates ahead of time, and we map other vendors around them.”
In peak season, you’ll find up to 110 vendors at the Bellingham market, with an average presence of 95. September is the busiest month, and in the so-called shoulder season of November and December, there’s an average of 65 vendors.
We know we’re successful because our vendors are successful at selling their product.
Caprice Teske, market director
Ten new vendors will join the market this season, and while Teske wasn’t at liberty to identify them, she says fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi will be at the market this year, as well as a mix of new crafts, fruit, and food.
Chances are, you’ve spent a pleasurable Saturday ambling from one vendor to another at the market. What you might not know is that Teske and her team are there by 6:30 in the morning for their 10 a.m. market opening, and that once the market has wrapped up at 3 p.m., they have just 90 minutes to get all the vendors off the parking-lot site downtown.
That’s according to the contract the market has with the city. If they’re not gone within the hour and a half after closing, there are extra charges.
“It can be complicated managing vehicles that are driving onto the site, and especially if there are still customers hanging around,” Teske says. “It raises safety concerns.”
Still, locals have a lot to be proud of about the marrket.
“We know we’re successful because our vendors are successful at selling their product,” Teske says. “They’re not going home with a lot of product.”
When and where: Bellingham Farmers Market is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, April to Christmas, at Depot Market Square. The market also is noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, June through August, at Fairhaven Village Green.
By the numbers:
10,000 visitors per month to the Saturday markets
110 vendors at full capacity
1992, when Bellingham Farmers Market began