OLYMPIA, Wash. - August 2-8 is "Washington Farmers Market Week," an
official nod to the farmers who set up booths and sell their wares to
individual consumers. If you want to see a booming business in
Washington, make plans to visit one.
There are now 140 farmers markets around the state, and sales have
risen from $38 million in 2006, to $55 million last year. For
customers, it may seem like farmers go to a lot of effort just to sell
a few dollars worth of produce here and there. But Patrice Barrantine,
direct marketing coordinator for the Washington Department of
Agriculture, says it is the primary source of income for many small
"The return and the value of meeting customers and getting feedback on
their products, and being able to get a retail dollar amount for their
product and not a wholesale dollar amount, is valuable enough that
farmers are willing to put in 60 to 80 hours a week to make it happen."
Barrantine says farmers markets are doing well because people enjoy the
social aspects of them, as well as the idea of buying fresh, locally
produced foods. One drawback for vendors, however, has been that they
typically are only equipped to handle cash sales. Changing that has
been a priority this year, according to Barrantine, enabling them to
take credt card payments.
"They operate often, you know, in a street or in a park without
electricity or phone lines, so it hasn't been an option. But this year,
20 markets in the state are part of a pilot program to actually have
wireless point-of-sale machines, so they can take debit cards, credit
cards and food stamp cards."
Barrantine says the pilot program has already paid for itself in
increased sales. For more information about farmers markets in the
state and "Washington Farmers Market Week" events, see www.wafarmersmarkets.com