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Long-Time Idea Will Literally Bear Fruit: City's Farmers Market Opens July 10

Pilot project will run for eight weeks on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of City Hall.

If the city builds it, they will come.

At least, that is the hope of planners of the Lakewood Farmers Market, which will open July 10 and run for eight weeks on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The market will be operated as a pilot project this year to determine interest by farmers, vendors and local consumers. It is slated to run between July and August, but may extend into September if there is enough traffic to do so.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Mary Dodsworth, Parks and Recreation director for the City of Lakewood. “We have big things coming up, and it’s exciting. It’s been hard around here because there’s so much work to do, but we have had these ideas for a long, long time, and all the stars lined up.”

The market’s purpose is to create a sense of community and a place to gather while bringing people to Lakewood, celebrating and highlighting the city’s uniqueness and providing healthy options for residents.

The idea has support from high levels; City Councilman Jason Whalen said in February that the market should happen “sooner than later.”

"I'm a huge fan for that cool development and redefinition of what it means to have a sense of place in Lakewood, specifically the Towne Center," he said.

While Lakewood had a farmers market as recently as 2001 – and holds a one-day event during Summerfest – the closest weekly one is now in Steilacoom. That market opens in June.

“It seemed to be somewhat successful, but it was pre-Lakewood Towne Center,” Dodsworth said of the previous effort in Lakewood.

In recent years, she added, calls would come in from people expressing interest in a farmers market.

“I’d say ‘Yes, it would be fabulous, and here is what we need to do: a leadership team to help us with logistics, details, that we want it to be a diverse group’ … and they usually would say, ‘Well, I just wanted to buy lettuce.’ ”

So what changed?

“About once a year, we have thrown out the net to see if anyone was interested,” Dodsworth said, “and when we did in January, more than 20 people showed up. It’s been a revolving troop.”

Among those on the committee are business owners, those with expertise about how farmers markets work and what one must do to be a vendor, community service clubs and market enthusiasts. The city is overseeing the project, but Dodsworth said that if the pilot project is successful, it could create an independent farmers market association.

“First, we need to know: Do we have vendors that want to come?” she said. “Do we have customers who want to come?”

Dodsworth said prices will be set and the vendor application should be ready this week. They plan to have 30 vendors this summer – 50 percent farm, 20 percent processors (jams, jellies, pies, dog treats), 20 percent handcrafted items and 10 percent groups (nonprofits, entertainers).

The market will be held on the paved plaza area and around the fountain in front of City Hall, with a little spillover near the side parking between the building and USA Discounters. Under this plan, Dodsworth said, the city would not have to close any roads or limit access into Lakewood Towne Center or City Hall.

“I’m excited that I can come down during lunch and get some pretty flowers and fresh produce and try new things,” Dodsworth said. “And we’re bringing people to City Hall. A lot of people don’t come here because they don’t have a planning issue or need to go to court, so this is a great way to come and see what a great area we have over here.”

Dodsworth said it will cost $5,000 to run the market for the season. Costs include staffing, signage, equipment and marketing.

Those interested in having a booth at the farmers market should call 253-983-7887.

Jennifer Chancellor April 18, 2012 at 01:05 AM
I don't mind the hours the market will be -- I have frequented the one on Broadway in Downtown Tacoma (11 to 2 or so) the past couple of summers and it seems to get a lot of foot traffic from people looking for a bite to eat or who have a bit of time to wander through during their lunch. I'd think it would be a lot harder to get people to the market later in the day when they're getting home from work, trying to make dinner, etc. I'm super excited that Lakewood is getting a market, though -- the last attempt was when I was off in Pullman attending WSU.
steve swortz April 18, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Who will go with these hours. So I see the pilot is going to be a failure. Plus with the dshs building there parking is already limited. Dumb plan.
grannymona April 18, 2012 at 05:16 AM
I like the hours....why run it at the same time as other markets in the area?
Jennifer Chancellor April 18, 2012 at 07:20 AM
According to the market's planners, there are restrictions regarding use of Towne Center property (i.e. the empty parking lots, such GI Joe's and Gottschalks), so in order to keep the market in LTC, they looked to Lakewood City Hall property. Neighboring property owners are being contacted about the impact of overflow parking.
Debbie Billingsley April 28, 2012 at 02:00 PM
For a pilot /test run you have to start somewhere. Tuesdays 11-3 would not be my choice either because many people do work then, BUT... in the summer there are a lot of people traveling and visiting family here and this could be the start of something that can evolve into a weekend day(like Proctor's market)! Let's be happy there is FINALLy enough interst to get this thing off the ground!!

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