We got such a great reaction to our post on the most memorable market momentsof our market manager, Edee Phillips, that we thought that today we would do another collection of these special times at the MI Farmers Market. We have another memorable market moment from Edee, plus one from MIFM board member and treasurer, Julie Sarkasian, and one from MIFM board member and president, Joel Wachs.
EDEE’S SECOND FAVORITE CUSTOMER MOMENT: THE SURPRISE GIFT
Over the years, Edee has seen relationships develop and deepen between Mercer Islanders and the market’s farmers. This was one of the fondest hopes of the organizers of the MIFM when the market started in 2008. While Edee was aware of many of these relationships, she didn’t realize how strong some had become.
Shoppers at the Martin Family Orchard booth at the Mercer Island Farmers Market. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
One of the market days in the fall of last year, Edee was walking through the market and saw a long-time, dedicated MIFM customer at the booth of Martin Family Orchards, Orondo, WA. Martin Family Orchards is one of the original vendors at the market and year-after-year our customers line up to buy their delicious tree fruit. While seeing the long-time customer at the booth wasn’t anything extraordinary, what stopped Edee in her tracks and was extraordinary was that this customer was giving a gift to the Martin Family employee. Edee says, “The employee was looking at me like she could not believe what was happening. She later explained to me that the weekend prior, her back was hurting her so badly that she was asking customers and fellow vendors if anyone had ibuprofen or tylenol. Well this market day, the first one after her back problems, the customer had come back to the MI Farmers Market with a special herbal-flax-seed-filled hot-cold pack for her.” It was quite a touching moment for the vendor, who told Edee that she works at manyfarmers markets throughout the region and something like this had never happened to her before. It was a touching moment for Edee as well–and one that has become one of her most memorable market moments, because our market manager has worked so hard to build ties between Mercer Island and farmers. The Surprise Gift was proof that her years of dedication and hard work were truly bearing fruit. (Please forgive the pun.)
JULIE’S MOST MEMORABLE MARKET MOMENT: MR. AND MRS. PUMPKINHEADS
Like Edee, Julie was part of the core group of volunteers that helped start the Mercer Island Farmers Market. Five years later, Julie continues to volunteer for the market and currently serves as a member of the board of directors and as our treasurer. Julie’s volunteering at the market extends beyond these roles. She is also a market-day volunteer serving in a variety of positions that all help to insure that the market runs smoothly. Speaking with her, it becomes clear that one of the volunteer positions that she enjoys the most is assisting at the children’s table.
Judy Witmer working with children at the children's table at the Mercer Island Farmers Market in October 2010. (Photo by Julie Sarkasian)
Each market day, Judy Witmer, a Mercer Island resident and longtime teacher, has an educational activity for our youngest shoppers. Judy, one of the MIFM’s most dedicated volunteers, spends time during the week to develop simple activities that use mostly natural ingredients so that our community’s children can become more familiar with the natural bounty around them. Julie marvels, “It is amazing how these kids, raised with all the technology, respond. It is this engagement and enthusiasm from them that draw me in each and every time a volunteer.” Julie’s most memorable market comes from one of her days volunteering last fall at the children’s table. Judy developed an activity where children could decorate mini pumpkins with various pieces of squash, root vegetables, and greens making “Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkinheads.” Julie, still extremely impressed with the children’s creativity all of these months later, says, “It was so interesting to see how each child used the vegetables in different ways. And it was great fun to see the each of the pumpkin ‘faces’ emerge.”
Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin Heads at the Mercer Island Farmers Market. (Photo by Julie Sarkasian)
There are so many different aspects to making the Mercer Island Farmers Market a fun experience where both adults and children can learn more about agriculture and the local produce from our region’s farms. It is through volunteers like Judy Witmer that these happen and most memorable experiences and memories happen.
JOEL’S MOST MEMORABLE MARKET MEMORY: MARKET SNOW DAY
Joel has been a volunteer at the Mercer Island Farmers Market since its very first opening day, August 10, 2008. Since serving in his original role as a volunteer flagger, Joel has served in several other volunteers roles as well as on the MIFM’s board. In 2011, he is serving as the market’s president. Each year, the Mercer Island Farmers Market volunteers and market manager like to try new things; to push the market in a new direction or two. Last year, one of the new things that the MIFM tried was its first-ever Harvest Market, held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It was a risk for many reasons. Would our farmers be interested in selling that day? Would there be enough fresh produce that late in the season? Would customers be interested in purchasing fresh produce several days in advance of the holiday? Would the cold weather make shoppers reluctant to come to an outdoor event? Would a market, which was to take place four weeks after our final regular season market, be too difficult to raise awareness of to busy customers with lots of choices on where to shop for the holiday (a bit of “Out of sight, out of mind,” maybe)? In the end, the Pre-Thanksgiving Harvest Market proved to be one of the best market days last season. A better maxim to describe our customers’ response to this new concept was “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Not only did our farmers have wonderful fresh produce, but the Harvest market’s sales and customer counts were among the highest in all of 2010. Several of our vendors reported that the Harvest Market was their best sales day that market season at the MI Farmers Market. One of our vendors even told us that it was the single best sales day that she ever had at any farmers market no matter the time of year. All of the MIFM’s volunteers were not just relieved, but ended up extremely gratified by our community’s response and support, which showed how much Mercer Islanders valued having the farmers market and in providing fresh, local produce for their families’ holiday meals.
Snowing at the Mercer Island Pre-Thanksgiving Harvest Market in November, 2011. (Photo by Joel Wachs)
What turned a wonderful experience into an extraordinary one and the one that is Joel’s most memorable market moment was when early that market day it began to snow. He says, “Several of the volunteers later spoke with each other about that moment. We all had a sinking feeling that with the snow that the shoppers would disappear and the Harvest Market would turn out to be a failure.” But instead of disappearing, the MIFM’s shoppers paused for a few moments to watch the flakes come down and then turned back to their shopping. As Susie Rosenstein, Mercer Island Farmers Market board member and vice president, said, “It was magical.” Do you have any memorable moments from the Mercer Island Farmers Market? We would love to hear them.