Edee Phillips, the market manager of the Mercer Island Farmers Market, at the market on June 21, 2009. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
As there is no Mercer Island Farmers Market tomorrow as our community’s big Summer Celebration is going on at the northend of Mercerdale Park, we thought that we would take this opportunity to pause and ask our beloved market manager, Edee Phillips, for her most memorable moments from the past few years of the market.
Edee was a key volunteer in the small group that worked on starting the market and, then in 2008, became the MI Farmers Market’s first, and so far, only market manager.
When we asked her for her single most memorable moment, Edee couldn’t come up with just one. “I have so many favorite moments. But I have to say that a few rise to the very top of the list…”
NUMBER ONE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: OPENING DAY 2008
Edee’s overall most memorable moment was the MI Farmers Market’s very first Opening Day, August 10, 2008. For her, the whole experience “…was a bit like giving birth: a long awaited day with months of work put into the creation.”
After months of what seemed like endless conversations, emails, paperwork, and meetings with farmers, the city, and volunteers, and only having the vaguest hopes for success, Edee can still clearly see in her mind’s eye the vendors showing up early in the morning and setting up for the first time. The way that she describes that morning makes it sound as if it seemed almost miraculous to her that the farmers were actually about to start selling their produce at the northend of Mercerdale Park. We all know that it wasn’t a miracle that made that day happen, but the hard work of Edee and so many others.
The Phillips Family: Ari, Eli, Dave, Edee, and Leo (from left to right) at the Mercer Island Farmers Market in June 2009. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
Family is what ultimately made an already extraordinary day for Edee that much more special and her number one Mercer Island Farmers Market most memorable moment. “The very best part of that whole day was to see my family there because they came up to me looking so proud, gave me a hugs and said, ‘Mom, look at what you did!’…The way that they all looked at me made me prouder at that moment then any other I can remember!”
MOST MEMORABLE VENDOR MOMENT: PULLING TOGETHER LIKE FAMILY
In October of last year, for sudden and unexpected family reasons, Edee had to fly out of town less than two hours after the end of one of the markets. What could have been an extremely stressful and difficult market moment turned into one of Edee’s favorites.
Farmer Kai Ottoson of Hedlin Family Farm, Mount Vernon, WA hard at work setting up tables of produce at the Mercer Island Farmers Market in 2009. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
Before the market opened that day, Edee quietly explained to all of the vendors her need to catch a flight that left soon after the market closed and that it would be extremely helpful to her if, that afternoon at market close, all of them could make an extra push to break down their booths and clear the streets as soon as possible. Over the years, Edee’s dedication to supporting these local farmers and constant striving to create a sense of community among them has been one of her hallmarks as market manager. That day, the vendors really came through, like a true family would. “Not only did I make it out of there in record time, but when the vendors were driving out, they found me to wish me a safe trip and to wish my family all the best. Their actions and kind words made me realize and appreciate the wonderful friends and relationships that I had made while working at the Market.”
MOST MEMORABLE CUSTOMER MOMENT: THE ANONYMOUS DONORS
Edee’s most memorable customer moment is from October 17, 2010, the last regular market day last year.
Many of our customers and community members know that the majority of the financial resources to run the MI Farmers Market come from the fees that the vendors pay for their booths. These fees are a difficult balancing act for the MIFM. Like all farmers markets, we try both to generate enough financial resources to be vibrant and sustainable ourselves and, at the same time, to have the fees low enough so that local farmers are able to keep as much of their daily sales as possible and remain vibrant and sustainable themselves.
Sommer-Rae Simonson, a vendor and Mercer Island resident, enjoying some watermelon before the market opening at the Mercer Island Farmers Market in September of 2010. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
Last fall, an anonymous couple, who are dedicated MI Farmers Market shoppers and aware of this balancing act, made a generous contribution to the market that paid for all of the vendors fees for the final market day that season. Edee is still awed by this act. “I can not forget about this generous donation…it allowed our vendors to leave at the end of the day without having to pay any fees. All of our vendors wanted to know who they were so that they could tell them how amazing their gesture was and they all wanted to give product to them!” As these anonymous donors’ identity has never been revealed, they never received the products that the vendors wanted to give them as thanks. While they might remain anonymous, they also remain dear to Edee and the entire MIFM community.
Darrell Westover of Westover Farms, Maple Valley, WA holding a heart-shaped tomato at the Mercer Island Farmers Market in 2009. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
Edee finished her thoughts on this memorable moment by asking, “Where else does something like this happen?” Our market manager asks a very good question. We have asked around the state’s farmers market community and, to date, we have not heard of another instance of this kind of marvelous support for local direct-market farmers. It truly is a memorable moment not just for the Mercer Island Farmers Market, but for the wider local agriculture community.
If you have a Mercer Island Farmers Market memorable moment or two, please let us know. We would love to know what memories of the MI Farmers Market you treasure most.