Eating local in Enumclaw: How one woman and her farming community created Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market

Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market opened on June 6, 2019, providing plateau area residents with farm fresh, local products for the first time in over 20 years. The Local Food team spoke with Liz Clark, Enumclaw Plateau Farmers Market manager, about how the market was created and the successes and challenges her and her team of volunteers have experienced along the way.

When did you realize there was a need for a farmers market in Enumclaw?

“This idea started sometime between 2012 and 2014 when some of my friends, neighbors and I sat around a table and discussed reasons why there were no farmers markets nearby,” said Clark. “We were interested in exploring options and thought starting a farmers market would be relatively simple.”

“However, it quickly proved that establishing a market was far from easy.”

“A farmers market cannot pop up within a few months like we had initially thought. Farmers must plan six months or more before going to market to ensure they have enough product to sell at multiple markets for the duration of the summer.”

“If we tried to open a market when we had the idea, farmers wouldn’t have had enough produce or other products to sell at the market.”

“Establishing a new farmers market is more than farmers getting together and selling food. It takes much more effort than that,” said Clark. “A group of us started doing some research and realized we needed to do a couple of years of planning to make an Enumclaw farmers market happen.”

Liz Clark served on advisory committee to Enumclaw City Council to figure out how to bring a farmers market to her town.

“Many of the committee members did not think we could establish a farmers market because there was not enough money in the City budget for a new and unexpected project,” she said. “In 2016, I conducted surveys to figure out if the community was interested in and able to support a farmers market. I received opinions from businesses, community members and area farmers. Ultimately, over 1,200 people supported the fact that we needed a farmers market in Enumclaw.”

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The major challenge was financial support.

“We saw other farmers markets around the country fundraising to establish a farmers market, so we thought we could start one through community fundraising efforts,” said Clark. “A group of interested Enumclaw Plateau area residents came together to fundraise and apply for grants to put a market together.”

Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market is 100 percent volunteer based. Through small grants and a variety of fundraising efforts, the non-profit was able to open this year and the market will run until September 26.

“I think we were successful not only because of our dedicated volunteers, but also because the City of Enumclaw and Plateau area has changed over the years,” said Clark. “There has been more housing development and, in general, people don’t grow as much food for themselves as they used to, and they want a farmers market to gain access to farm fresh produce, meat and other products.”

Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market also is along a state route through downtown Enumclaw, with a highly visible location and good views to attract customers.

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What has been the biggest success in managing Enumclaw farmers market so far?

“I’m extremely proud of our market because almost all our vendors are within 15 miles of the Enumclaw Plateau,” she said. “Instead of mostly talking with farm representatives and volunteers, customers are directly talking with farmers and their families. Those connections are what has helped make our market successful this year.

Our team is also planning to map out exactly where our vendors are located on our website soon to show just how local they are.”

What is challenging about starting a new farmers market?

“Since this is a new market, some farmers sign up to sell at the beginning but are not able to continue selling at the market for the entire summer,” said Clark. “It was challenging for some farmers to add Enumclaw to their list of markets.”

“We’ve had a few farmers drop out of the market because they have to spend more time on their farm,” she said. “Other farmers have not been able to return weekly because they did not have enough product to bring to market and did not have a way to quickly increase their capacity. Hopefully next year they will be able to come back and join us.”

What is your favorite part about managing a farmers market?

“The fact that the community has said that they wanted a farmers market and they are showing up to support it,” said Clark. “Farmers markets have a great atmosphere and many people end up visiting them but not making any purchases. It’s great to see people showing up, buying and enjoying local farm products, and ultimately supporting our farmers by purchasing every week.”

“I’m also excited for the future of the market,” said Clark. “We are planning to be back next year with a few big changes. Our team is already discussing what to do differently next year in order to improve our market.”

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What’s next for the Enumclaw market?

“One of our highest priorities for next year is food access support,” said Clark. “We didn’t have the capacity this year to accept WIC, SNAP and EBT but we have plans to expand in order to do so next year. We are focused on raising the funds and finding a way to grow our capacity and make this happen.”

As mentioned before, Clark also plans to provide an up-to-date map on Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market’s website that shows where all of their farmers and other vendors are located.

Additionally, keep an eye out for announcements about Edible Enumclaw, a fundraising event for the market that provides locally sourced and prepared food for attendees and the annual pig raffle, which is an opportunity to win a whole pig! A date for the event has not been set yet, so keep your eye out for tickets to go on sale soon on their website.

Please visit Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market’s website for more information.

All images courtesy of Enumclaw Plateau Farmers’ Market.

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