You may not realize it, but the Bellingham Farmers Market is special. Everything sold there was grown or created in Whatcom or Skagit counties. It is truly a hyperlocal market. It supports locals and helps them build a steady customer base, while offering a wide selection of quality goods for customers.
Product Review Process
Not just anyone can sell their wares at the Bellingham Farmers Market. Director Caprice Teske filled me in on the product review process for all crafts and prepared food that they carry. Farmers are their number one priority but Caprice and a panel of reviewers anonymously review products and applications to ensure that the offerings at the market are well rounded with variety and diversity throughout the season. For the 2018 season, the panel is looking to add more dairy offerings like milk, cream, butter and ice cream. They will also be looking to add new craft vendors offering quality goods and a more diverse range of food vendors.
The review panel is very thoughtful about quality made goods and supporting a variety of small businesses. On a typical summer day at the Saturday market there are 100 vendors set up to sell. One of the goals of the Bellingham Farmers Market is to host vendors that will sell on a regular basis and build strong relationships with customers. New vendors need to ensure that they can keep up with the demand of shoppers at the farmers market.
New Vendor Applications
Do you or someone you know have something to offer at the Bellingham Farmers Market? A brand new online application for vendors will be available after the New Year. Applicants are encouraged to apply early, before the season opens, because there will be limited opportunities to add new vendors after the first product review process.
Selling at the Bellingham Farmers Market is an affordable way to grow your business. Vending spaces at the market are much less expensive than a retail space and do not require you to hand over a large percentage of your sales like craft fairs. There is a one-time membership fee to sell at the farmers market – $120 for the Saturday Market Downtown and $40 for the Wednesday Market in Fairhaven. An additional consideration for food vendors is a required permit from the Whatcom County Health Department and access to a commercial kitchen to prepare foods.
After 25 seasons of bringing fresh produce and local goods to Bellingham, the farmers market can boast some impressive success stories. Many market vendors have gone on to open brick and mortar locations around Bellingham after using the market to grow their business. Fiamma Burger tested out recipes as a food vendor at the market before opening their restaurant. Evolve Truffles built their client base at the Saturday market. Texture began as a vendor at the market and has gone on to open a clothing boutique. Atwood Ales uses the market as their tasting room. The market serves different purposes for different vendors, helping each local business grow and flourish.
Brandywine Kitchen started as Brandywine Gardens at the farmers market in 2006, offering 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Brandywine gardens sold 100 pounds of tomatoes every week for two years, before transitioning to prepared food under the name of Brandywine Kitchen, using sourced ingredients from farmer friends on their menu. Azizi Tookas, co-owner of Brandywine Kitchen, shared this with me about his time at the Bellingham Farmers Market, “In the beginning, it was fun to educate customers on the exotic look and flavor of heirloom tomatoes and explain to them why we don’t see them anymore, albeit that was 2005 and they have since grown in popularity and have become more common. When we were selling prepared food, I really enjoyed working outside in the fresh air while cooking. I have worked in the restaurant industry my whole life, but there is definitely something unique about cooking outside surrounded by a supportive community.
“What the farmers market offered us before our transition into a storefront is a trialing ground for recipes, procedures and marketing,” Tookas said. “We definitely created and grew our customer base from there and they followed us up to the restaurant when we opened in 2011. The farmers market also allowed us to make great relationships with local farmers, which we continue to have to this day. We continue to purchase many of our seasonal ingredients from the same Whatcom County farms that we formed relationships with while we were at the farmers market.”
If you visit the market as a customer, you can feel great knowing that you are supporting businesses grown by your friends and neighbors. And if you would like to cultivate your own business, the Bellingham Farmers Market would love to see your application for the 2018 season.
Saturdays, April – December, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Depot Market Square
1100 Railroad Avenue
Wednesdays, June – August, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Fairhaven Village Green
1207 10th Street