Birch Bay farmer’s market growing strong
By Tara Nelson
It was only last May when T-Shirt Shop owners Terry and Sharon Smith opened their farmer’s market on 10 acres at 3591 Birch Bay-Lynden Road.
But what started as an experiment is quickly turning into a dynamic community venture.
Since then, the open-air produce stand is bustling with customers walking over fragrant cedar chips, checking out freshly-grown bulk lavender, and inspecting the six unusual types of melons such as Santa Claus and Canary varieties.
“The Santa Claus
is a very light fleshed melon that’s
not as sweet as a Honey Dew,” Terry said, referring
to a hard, green football-shaped fruit.
Sharon, Terry’s wife and business partner, said the two also have plans to extend the market into the winter months, possibly adding more groceries and local dairy products inside the 70,000-square foot structure near the rear of the site. They’ve already added a bulk food section, an espresso and hot-dog stand, and a bread vendor specializing in nearly five varieties of rye bread – including a popular sour rye variety.
“That one always sells out,” said Anna Kravchenko, a vendor who distributes bread from Europa Foods in Bellingham.
Kravchenko also recommends using the three varieties of challah, a lightly sweet Jewish bread, for toast or French toast. Bread prices range from $2.65 to $3.99.
Smith said the combination of unusual, local and specialty goods gives them a competitive edge.
“We’re not trying to compete with the grocery store because we couldn’t,” he said. “Instead we are filling a niche. People come here because they know it’s special and that’s what a lot of them want.”
Much of their produce is also local including berries from Barbie’s Berries in Ferndale, snap peas, organically-grown green beans, and an unusual line of meat marinades in flavors such as spicy lime, pineapple and cherry made in Blaine. Terry also said he is looking into selling local artisan cheeses and milk from Pleasant Valley Dairy in Custer, a micro dairy that specializes in hand-crafted raw-milk gouda, farmstead and mulschli varieties.
“We already get most of our produce from Washington,” said Sharon. “But we would like to make it as local as possible.”
That dream might become a reality sooner than later. On Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, the public market becomes a mecca of local vendors such as Grace Harbor Farms, of Custer, Joy’s Jewelry of Bellingham; Lantern Works Glass and Design of Custer and Bunny Toes hand-made soaps of Blaine.
To encourage more vendors to set up shop, the Smiths said they are removing the $10 daily fee originally charged to sell goods.
“We’re making it as a business so we just want to make it easier on everyone else and have fun,” Sharon said.
Terry agreed. He’s already hired two jazz bands to play on Saturdays under the wisteria-covered gazebo and has plans to put koi in the small pond on the east side of the property. “There’s a lot of fun in just finding out where the market is taking us,” he said. “It’s what ever makes it work comfortably without a lot of weirdness.”
The farmer’s market is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The separate public market is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. They can be reached by calling 366-0404.