Mercer Island Farmers Market Kicks off 2022 Season

May 31, 2022 | by Alana Al-Hatlani

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Photo courtesy Mercer Island Farmers Market

S’mores cookies, peak season berries, and beautiful bouquets of flowers are back as the Mercer Island Farmers Market returns to Mercerdale Park on June 5th to kick off its 15th year. Each Sunday through September, about 50 participating local farms, small food businesses, and craft stands set up from 10 am to 3 pm, creating a bustling community event.

Returning favorites include Oxbow Farm, Martin Family Orchards, and Hayton Farms Berries, as well as a robust live music lineup. Music industry veteran Paul Sommer has again booked acts ranging from folk to jazz to keep the market lively: opening day kicks off with Nuages, Bellingham’s modern Gypsy jazz group and other season highlights include folk singer-songwriter Jasper Lepak and Yaamba Marimba, a Zimbabwean dance music group. 

Photo courtesy Mercer Island Farmers Market

To keep up the live music program, as well as support administrative expenses and educational programs, market organizers launched the annual donation drive fundraiser starting in May. The many farmers markets in the region use a variety of different models, including private and city-owned, but Mercer Island Farmers Market operates as a non-profit. “We only get 50% to 60% of what we need for operational costs just from the act of running the market,” says Market Manager Sam Bradshaw.

While many local businesses regularly pitch in, like Island Books and Aljoya, there’s still a gap in funding. For a third consecutive year, an anonymous local has agreed to match islanders’ donations up to $5000. In the past two years, the market received enough personal donations to meet the full $5000 match, which helped sustain the market through the pandemic.

Contributions go toward a valuable community resource that’s more than just an outlet for seasonal produce. In addition to hosting the 2500 people each week who shop there, the Mercer Island Farmers Market donates over 2000 pounds of food annually, diverts more than six tons of landfill waste each year and serves to support the local economy in a focused way: “You spend $1 at a farmers market and 90 cents stays in your community versus closer to about 15 cents when you shop at the supermarket,” says Bradshaw. 

Photo courtesy Mercer Island Farmers Market

Bradshaw grew up working farmers markets with his mother, a cheesemaker in Skagit County,  and understands firsthand the kind of help small local farms need. “We really want to uplift people doing the right thing environmentally in land and farming practices,” says Bradshaw, which sometimes calls for market funds to help vendors cover costs. 

The market continues to look for ways to best support the community. Last year, it pledged to diversify its vendors, focusing on people from different backgrounds who offer products not previously available to customers. Starting this year, the market is working with the Hmong Society to fill vendor spots; in past seasons it has worked with Hmong produce and flower vendors like True Gardens, a small family-owned flower business, which returns to the market this year. It reflects what Bradshaw considers the most special thing about farmers markets, “It’s one table that everyone gets to sit at.” 

New Vendors to Check Out This Season: 

Foggy Hog Farm 

This regenerative livestock farm on the Olympic Pennisula specializes in happy pigs. Owner Alex Lemay raises Berkshire pork and Highland beef in ethical living conditions, using carbon-sequestering, regenerative pasturing practices for happier animals and higher quality meat. 

Fernandez Farms

A certified organic farm in Sunnyside owned by Sergio and Wendy Fernandez. They have been growing everything from cherries to corn pesticide-free since 2008 and are proud members of the Washington Latino Farm Network. 

Waffly Good Waffles

A women-owned and Snoqualmie-based small business that specializes in liege waffles made from a brioche-like dough and studded with pearl sugar that caramelizes and gives the waffles their signature crunchy crust. 

Wright Brothers Farms 

Farming is in the Wright brothers’ DNA. Originally from Ferndale (although one brother, Craig, is now an islander), their family was among the earliest organic growers in Whatcom County. Reconnecting to their roots, they started their own farm, growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs, plus a variety of greens, including less common varietals like sorrel and purslane.

Check out the full vendor list line-up and more that’s in store at the Mercer Island Farmers Market at: