Wenatchee Farmers Market expanding its reach, developing programs, creating community
There is no substitute in a community for face-to-face interactions that bring people together for the common good.
For Britany Meiklen, the executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, that’s the magic she sees every Thursday and Saturday in the parking lot at Pybus Public Market. “I think we can all agree (that) with recent events we have been shown that America is pretty divided. The farmers market is one place where there is no division,” she told me. “People come together, people are friendly, people help each other…. it is a good place,” she added.
Meiklen caught the local food bug by taking an online course, which ultimately led to a degree in sustainable agriculture. She farmed land in Skagit County and was part of Viva Farms, an incubator operation that helped new farmers get started and learn the ropes. “I engulfed myself in the agricultural world,” said Meiklen.
Three years ago, she and her husband moved to the Wenatchee Valley and one of the first things she did was search out the farmers market. The executive director job came open, and she was hired.
So many aspects of the farmers market make this job a perfect fit for her skills and passions.
Local food promotes the health of community members, for starters. The market also supports an endangered species — the small local farmer, brings together people of all ages to share in the experience of learning about local food and those who produce it, and creates an atmosphere where people can relax and enjoy music in the open air. It’s also a place of sharing conversations and building relationships.
Meiklen also loves the waterfront and the connection to historic downtown Wenatchee. “Wenatchee is a really cool area,” Meiklen told me.
The market is launching successful new programs, developing partnerships and is even considering developing an incubator farm.
The numbers are growing, the self-described data junkie told me. On one Saturday last season, more than 4,000 people visited the market.
The Thursday market collaborates with Run Wenatchee’s weekly run — a perfect marriage of exercise and nutrition. Last year, the market launched Power of Produce, a club for kids from 5-12 that provides food-related activities. “Some of these kids turned out to be real foodies,” Meiklen marveled.
To help spread the benefit of locally grown, fresh produce, the market started a Fresh Bucks program that allows low-income individuals to get 40 percent more for their money.
The outreach to the Latino community is continuing. “This is a place for everyone,” Meiklen said.
Besides farmers, the market has a lot of processors providing fresh bread, meat, fish and cheese, to name a few.
The farmers market is a perfect place for someone who is just getting started in preparing fresh meals. To that end, they’ll be offering cooking demonstrations at both the Thursday and Saturday markets this year.
The Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market is an example of grass-roots community building. It succeeds because the vendors, volunteers, board and customers are all invested in developing this community asset.
When lots of people look for ways to help make the community a better place, magical things happen.
The Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market opens Saturday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Thursday Market opens June 15, from 3-7 p.m.