Utilizing Farmers’ Markets in Walla Walla
Downtown Walla Walla Farmers Market
In 2013, Walla Walla’s farmers market was split into two different markets. The two markets overlapped on Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM, and while the Downtown Farmers’ Market had 26 produce vendors, the Valley Farmers Market had only 1-2 produce vendors. WWCH maintained friendly relations with the Valley Market but concentrated its produce recovery efforts on the Downtown Market.
In March and April, the Harvest VISTA:
· Attended all Downtown Farmers Market planning meetings
· Presented WWCH’s mission and goals to the vendors and manager
· Passed out fliers explaining the gleaning program
Once market started, the market manager sent out communication on behalf of the VISTA through a weekly farmers market email newsletter. By closely working with the market manager, WWCH gained credibility and benefitted from frequent “plugs” by the manager for farm vendors to donate.
The Downtown Walla Walla Farmers Market is held on Saturday and Sunday May through October. In 2012, vendors voiced that they were glad to have a place to donate but would like more consistency moving forward. Thus, in 2013 the Harvest VISTA dedicated each weekend to the market. On Saturdays, volunteers covered the booth during market and assisted the VISTA in picking up donations at 1 PM from vendors and loading the BMAC truck with produce to bring to the BMAC Food Warehouse. Sunday’s market saw a fraction of the customers; thus instead of setting up a booth, WWCH came 15 minutes before the closingto pick up donations and bring them to the warehouse.
While relying on volunteers for all farmers market visibility and pick-up responsibilities would make the process sustainable, having the VISTA at market each week did immeasurable good for the WWCH program. The program gained credibility as the farmers saw the VISTA’s commitment week after week. Additionally, farm vendors often told the VISTA of gleaning opportunities while chatting at market rather than calling or emailing during the week.
Smaller Regional Farmers Markets: Milton-Freewater Farmers Market
A WWCH volunteer picked up produce each Wednesday at the smaller Milton-Freewater market 20 minutes south of Walla Walla. The volunteer works in the office building where BMAC is housed and thus the VISTA and the volunteer coordinated exchanges there. On Wednesday mornings, the VISTA brought two empty bins to the receptionist in the building. The volunteer took the empty bins, picked up produce at the Milton-Freewater Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings, and brought the full bins back to work with her on Thursday mornings. The VISTA then picked up the full bins on Thursdays and brought them to the food warehouse. In order to implement this model and increase sustainability, ask the volunteer to go the extra mile and personally deliver the produce to the food warehouse.