‘There’s something for everyone’: Kent Farmers Market to expand in size and service this year

The downtown Kent Farmers Market.

Since 2015, two farmers markets have been running in Kent. Different locations, vendors, and shoppers made the markets distinct, but this year, the Kent Saturday market will combine the best of both. Living Well Kent, the Kent Lions Club, and the City of Kent are collaborating to make the downtown Kent market accessible and exciting for the whole community.

Living Well Kent began hosting a farmers market on the East Hill of Kent in 2015 after realizing that the downtown farmers market only accepted the government food assistance program WIC as payment, and did not accept most food assistance dollars such as EBT, SNAP, or Freshbucks. Thirteen percent of Kent’s population was in poverty in 2015, and this number is likely underestimated due to the large immigrant population in the city. A significant portion of Kent was unable to access fresh, locally grown food and the fun of the farmers market before Living Well Kent stepped in.

Living Well Kent at the Kent East Hill farmers market.

Shamso Issak, the founder and executive director of Living Well Kent, describes the organization’s work simply: “We grow food, we sell food, we give food for free. We don’t leave anyone behind.” The farmers market is one piece of this mission to address food insecurity in immigrant communities. Living Well Kent also farms 4 acres at Horseneck Farm and a greenhouse, the surplus of which is sold at the farmers market.

This year, Living Well Kent’s fresh produce will be sold alongside the crafts, food trucks, flowers and returning farmers at the downtown market. Susie Kiminki of the Kent Lions Club is hoping to have “something for everyone” with the new diversity of products being offered this year. In addition to vendors, the farmers market will include live music and dance performances sponsored by the Lions Club and Living Well Kent.

Kent Farmers Market sign.

The Lions Club has been running the Kent Farmers Market since 1974 as a way to raise money for their scholarship program and community events. Last year, Lions Club members Kiminki and Mary Petersen took over management of the market.

Around the same time, the City of Kent brought them together with Living Well Kent to integrate the markets. Kiminki and Petersen are very happy about it, “because we have such a diverse community and group of farmers. This will be a wonderful merging of two markets.”

Claudia Cortes, operations director at Living Well Kent, is excited to have the city and Lions Club collaborating after seven years of running the Living Well Kent market out of whatever open space could be found. Now, Living Well Kent’s market will have a more permanent home downtown with the Kent Farmers Market. Kiminki said she “is excited to have this partnership bringing more people downtown and to our market.”

The farmers market is the only way Living Well Kent generates proceeds to support the organization’s operations outside of donations and grants. These produce sales are incredibly important for the viability of the organization.

“Whatever we sell is invested back into the farmers and farmers markets. It brings us income that isn’t restricted by any grant,” Cortes said.

Yet, Living Well Kent takes a loss from produce purchased with SNAP. Despite being the only farmers market in the city that accepts SNAP dollars as payment, SNAP does not support the market.

Issak does not let this prevent people from accessing fresh produce “If the SNAP program is not funding us, are we going to not let our community get food? No!”

The first farmers market of the year will be held on Saturday June 17. Cortes, Issak, Kiminki, and Petersen all invite everyone to come and enjoy the full spectrum of products and activities at the expanded Kent Farmers Market.

“We’re trying to give and show the community the diversity that exists in Kent,” Issak said. “We are very excited to represent what is actually Kent – one community regardless of economic status, color, creed, anything.”

“We are all one community in Kent, regardless of if you pay with cash or EBT,” Issak said.

If you are interested in learning more about or supporting Living Well Kent, visit their website livingwellkent.org

If you are interested in learning more about or supporting the Kent Lions Club, visit their website kentlions.org

The Kent Farmers Market begins Saturday, June 17 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information visit kentfarmersmarket.com

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