A Market of Diversity and Opportunities

The Vancouver Farmers Market offers delightful sights, scents, and sounds to anyone visiting Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.

Peonies at the Market Photo by Jennifer Suciu

The market is filled with a diverse community of people, and vendors. Lined up on the right and left of Esther Street, the vendors sell many sorts of foods, flowers, plants, organic fruits and vegetables, and even clothing. The food and blooms give off a unique and pleasing aroma.

The Vancouver Farmers Market is a non-profit organization that works hard to sustain its success. The market is a place for local people and about 200 local small businesses to interact in a public space and share quality products with one another.

“The reason why I like this farmers market is, it’s the perfect size, it’s not overwhelming. I love all the plants and everything else, and the food is good,” said Debra Hoff’frye, a frequent visitor.

The market allows for acceptance of all cultures, and in fact creates its own culture in the shared space. Individuals of all races, ethnicities, ages, religions, and political views share a place to gather within the Vancouver community and bond over all that the vendors offer.

Vancouver Farmers Market. Photo by Jennifer Suciu

Jordan Boldt has been working with the Vancouver Farmers Market for seven years, the first year holding the position as marketing manager and six years as executive director. Prior to this, Boldt was a part-time medic, firefighter, and project manager in Washougal.

According to Boldt, about half a million people visit the Vancouver farmers market annually.

Jordan Boldt: “We just want to be a really strong community source for healthy foods and small businesses, and to create an environment where local businesses meet local customers… that sort of engages our community. The market makes it a livable city and that’s really important to us, to have a vibrant community.”

Boldt decided that his interests were to be in the farmers market after he realized improvements and changes could be done. He quit his job as a firefighter after 15 years, and walked away in December to work for the farmers market full time. Early on, he chose to look with fresh new eyes to see what the market was missing.

“There were a lot of challenges here, there were a lot of issues the market had, like many non-profits do… I had a business degree and so did one of the board members, and we started seeing some things that I think other people either haven’t seen or didn't want to see before,” Boldt said.

Boldt said he was successful in working through the issues the market had.

“We’ve come out of the unhealthy times, and created an organization that the community loves, where vendors are successful, and Vancouver is growing so fast,” said Boltd.

The executive director said the market encourages the atmosphere to be welcoming and accepting of all.

Photo by Jennifer Suciu

“I am really intrigued by how to create an organization that is a change making organization for the community and leads cultural shifts,” Boltd said. “Our goal is to be setting the tone for the coming city that is being built around us… to be the change and it’s exciting.”

The markets has a staff of 14 — including five year round members. These staff communicate with vendors to insure they follow the policies and goal of the market.

A new vendor called Sprout and Blossom has been added to the farmers market as of June 3rd. It is currently the newest addition of freshly organically grown food.

“Food and people getting together shape culture,” said Lauren Krug, one of the Sprout and Blossom business owners.

Krug’s partnership with Lysnday Jacob, the other owner, began this January when they opened their business. The two started farming by February.

Jacob and Krug met each other two years ago WWOOFfing, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. That’s where the two learned how to grow organic food. They also took classes in agriculture at Washington State University.

Krug also worked at the Clark County food bank for the past year. Every Sunday, she would attend the farmers market and purchase fresh produce for the low-income people who don’t have access to healthy foods. Similar goals now guide Krug’s business.

“Our goal is to grow as much quality and delicious food as possible,” said Krug. “(It’s) to feed people wholesome food and (we have) the long term goal of turning our farm into a community hub where people come and visit us, can learn how to farm, as well as learn our farming practices, which are organic.”

Sprout and Blossom and many more vendors at the farmers market have their own personal story about the journey of their business. Small businesses are given many opportunities in partnership with the market, according to Krug, and the market helps them promote their business and growth.

“They have come and visited us and done a lot of promotional shoutouts highlighting that we are the new farm,” said Krug. “They have also offered if there’s any resources we need. We really appreciate their partnership and support.”

Visitors also appreciate the farmers market. Hayley Larsen, a young local teenage visitor who enjoys a good time at the market, is proof that the market grabs the attention of all viewers and ages.

“The farmers market connects the Vancouver community by helping provide a platform for small and local artists, farmers, and people who create all different kinds of things” said Larsen. “It also helps make connections with one another and find similarities with different people.”

The market, Larsen said, is a great opportunity to discover and see diversity: “It’s a fun and happy and free place where people are allowed to show their creativity and make friends.”