Fife reconnected with its agricultural roots Wednesday with the debut of the city’s first farmers market.
City officials say it will offer locally grown produce and handcrafted items once a week to residents and a working population who don’t have access to a major grocery store within the city limits.
Mayor Rob Cerqui, a fourth-generation vegetable farmer, said the long-awaited market will also increase visibility for local businesses and farmers.
“We’ve got a lot of retail businesses people aren’t aware of,” he said after a ribbon-cutting Wednesday.
Fife, a city of about 9,200, has seen a gradual decline of the farming economy as development has expanded along the Interstate 5 corridor.
The increasingly industrial city in the backyard of the Port of Tacoma was founded by farmers attracted to the area for its rich soil.
Laurel Potter, the farmers market manager, said the new effort gives the city’s remaining farmers another outlet to sell their products.
“It might keep them here a little longer,” she said.
This season is experimental, she said, and the goal is to have food producers and farms make up 50 percent of the vendors each year.
Wednesday’s debut included 12 vendors selling items ranging from rhubarb to artwork, plus there were free activities for kids.
Andrew Mazur, 25, has worked for Puyallup’s Doug McDonald Farms for about eight years. He said his employer is a longtime farmers market participant in Pierce County.
“People should indulge in (markets) and start buying local,” Mazur said Wednesday from behind a table of lettuce, freshly picked the night before.
Emily Paulose, 29, of Emily’s Chocolates was handing out samples of the locally made sweets. Her family started the business in 1987; it’s been based in Fife for about 18 years.
Getting involved in the inaugural market was a way for the company to support the community, Paulose said.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer for us,” she said. “This is where we do everything. It’s good for people to understand we’re in their backyard.”
Cerqui said retail visibility is important for the local economy, which has a daily workforce that nearly doubles Fife’s population during the week.
The need for produce vendors in Fife has increased since farm stands started disappearing more than a decade ago. A combination of industrial growth, higher costs and rising taxes forced farmers to sell the rich farmland and cease operations, sparking the closure of popular roadside stops such as Sterino Farms.
The Sterino produce stand on 20th Street East closed in November 2006 at the same time longtime farmer Jack Sterino sold land in Fife. At the time, it symbolized an inevitable shift in the city’s landscape.
Cerqui said the new market supports the shrinking farm industry, which is important for a healthy environment and a vibrant city.
“It’s an opportunity to get back to our roots,” he said. “I’m still a staunch supporter of agriculture.”Fife farmers market debut and ribbon cutting