On opening day of the Olympia Farmers Market, Jan Pigman was all smiles as people checked out her assortment of rhubarb, radishes, herbs, artichokes, potatoes and more.
For the past 25 years, Pigman’s Organic Produce Patch has set up shop at the market, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of the farm’s sales. The farm is among the few that sells locally grown asparagus, said Pigman, noting that strawberries also do well in the summer.
“Where else can you get fresh local produce?” Pigman said Thursday morning. “It’s even more fun since it’s not raining right now.”
In pleasant summer weather, the Olympia Farmers Market can attract crowds of 2,000 people or more a day. In a year, about 250,000 people visit the market, said general manager Charlie Haney.
The market started in 1975, and has been at the north end of Capitol Way since 1996. Haney was encouraged by feedback from the first winter market, which ran Saturdays from January through March. The winter market will return in 2015, said Haney, excited that the market is now open year-round.
“There’s always something going on,” said Haney, who looks forward to the market’s Harvest Dinner and zucchini races this season.
Seven food trailers serve a range of ethnic eats at the market, while 85-90 vendors are signed up to sell fresh produce, flowers, soaps, jewelry, wood carvings, seafood and more.
On opening day, David Birch of Johnson Berry Farm served a steady stream of jam samples on little plastic spoons. The most popular flavor was tayberry, a type of Scottish raspberry that blends the sweet with the tart.
“This is much more homey,” said Birch, comparing his hometown market with Pike Place in Seattle. “It’s a big deal to a lot of people here.”
Longtime vendor Honey Bear Farm was selling eggs by the dozen and pure raw honey by the gallon on opening day. Located south of Olympia, the farm keeps its bees in the foothills where they feed on blackberries and fireweed, said co-owner Karen Rogers.
Aside from smaller quantities of pure honey, Rogers was also selling candles at her booth — some of which were bee-themed. She said the recent winter market was profitable for the farm.
“It’s a good way to serve the community year-round,” Rogers said. “We hope to do it again next year.”
One regular market customer, Olympia resident Kunzang Brown, is a big fan of worm tea. Sold by Wiser Worm Farm, the product works wonders on roses, vegetables and other garden delights, said Brown, who at the moment was waiting in line at Stewarts Meats. That popular vendor has sold prime cuts of meat at the market since 1982. Lakewood resident Karen Lenderman said she once stood in line for an hour to buy pepperoni – the same kind she bought Thursday – because “it’s worth it.”
The Olympia Farmers Market’s regular season runs through October. Hours are 10 a.m-3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at 700 N. Capitol Way. Live music featuring local bands will run 11 a.m.-2 p.m. each day. In November and December, the market will be open Saturdays and Sundays only. To learn more, visit olympiafarmersmarket.com or call 360-352-9096.