Saturday, July 13, 2024

Leavenworth Farmers Market ends for the Season, Farmers Get to Work

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LEAVENWORTH - The days are getting shorter, and the mornings a little colder, which means winter is getting close. For farmers, it means packing up their stand at the farmers market, and tending to the long list of chores that need to be done before the first snowfall.

Chris Peterson of Big Dog Farm, one of the 45 microbusinesses hosted at the Leavenworth Farmers Market this summer, planted over 2200 heads of garlic just days after the last market.

“It’s a multistep process,” Peterson said. First is getting the ground ready. Chris and her husband Darren had to remove everything from the field, such as irrigation lines and ground cover. Then, it’s layering compost, organic fertilizer, and landscape fabric. While Darren drills holes in the ground with an auger, Chris gets the garlic ready to plant, which involves taking a head of garlic and ‘popping’ the cloves out. “Popping 70 pounds of garlic took some time,” she laughed. She plants a clove in each hole, covers them with dirt and grass clippings, and hopes they will take root by winter. In the meantime, everything else will be torn down and composted, which will provide valuable nutrients to next year’s crop.

Although the Petersons have been gardening for twenty years, this summer was Big Dog Farm’s first appearance at the Leavenworth farmers market.

“It was more amazing than I could have imagined. I loved seeing the same customers week after week and supplying them with fresh vegetables,” said Chris. Over the course of the summer, she sold 400 pounds of tomatoes, 400 cucumbers, and 200 zucchini. “It was a ton of work…but it was so rewarding,” said Chris. One of her biggest challenges was deciding how much to plant. “I just had to guess. Like leeks, I had no idea! I planted about 300 leeks, which ended up being way too many for the market.” Chris was able to take the extra leeks to Sage Mountain Natural Foods and a few local restaurants.

You might recall Big Dog’s tent from the ginormous sunflowers, or the gorgeous bouquets of dahlias, celosia, and snapdragons.“I was really happy with how well the flowers did,” said Chris. She sold over 150 flower arrangements this summer, and did a few weddings, too. Because of their success, Chris is planning to expand the flower field this spring.

For Nina Riera Velasco and David Forcano Aparicio of Maverick Farm, fall also means continuing to harvest for Maverick’s CSA program that provides bi-weekly boxes of produce to 42 families, stocking a roadside produce stand operated by the honor system, and looking forward to their first American Thanksgiving. “So we’re trying to keep as much as we can alive…but at the same time, we are taking everything down that is dead and preparing the soil for winter,” said Nina.

Nina and David are from Barcelona, Spain. They worked for Maverick farm last summer, but the fall season is new to them. “We came here knowing we wanted to start our own farm back home, but when you talk to farmers, they always say you have to do a whole season to see if you’re up to doing it,” said David. Because of visa complications last year, they were only able to be a part of the planting and harvesting. “The cute stuff, you know?” Nina added.

This year, they received an internship visa, which allows them to stay for the entire season, April to November. It made it possible to take more ownership of the farm decisions, which Blake Shepler, Maverick’s owner, encouraged. One of those decisions was participating in the farmers market, which helped put Maverick’s name out into the community. “I think it’s one of the best things…growers meeting with the final customer,” said David. “You’re not selling it to a restaurant or a supermarket, you’re selling it directly to the person that’s going to eat it.”

To Nina and David, Leavenworth’s farmers market was very different from the ones back home. In Barcelona, people are only there to buy vegetables. “Here, people come and hang out,” said Nina. There’s music, green space, and variety. It’s a place for the community to come together and spend time with one another. “We would love to try and create one that’s like that [in Spain],” said David. After Thanksgiving, Nina and David will return home. “We just bought a property in Spain, which is very exciting, and we want to start our own farm there,” said Nina.

The Leavenworth Farmers Market occurred every Thursday from June 1 to Oct. 12 this year. It hosted farmers, artisans, soapmakers, musicians and more. Both the Leavenworth and Cashmere Farmers Market are managed by Cascade Community Markets. According to their website, the markets collectively kept over $165,000 in the local economy and distributed $9500 worth of produce via EBT, FMNP, and SNAP Market Match services.

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