Loaves of artisan bread were flying from Tom Tuffin’s folding table at Millwood’s first farmers’ market Wednesday.
He bagged a gooey cinnamon roll for a woman, who insisted hers be cut from a corner of the pan where the white icing had pooled, then paused to consider what makes a market successful – not just this market pitched in the parking lot of Millwood Presbyterian Church – but any.
“What makes a farmers’ market work the best is a strong community,” said Tuffin, who was restacking loaves of bread like kindling on his tiny table for the third time in 90 minutes, “because this is a function of community.”
There were 13 booths of homespun goods, everything from natural beef and farm eggs to fresh asparagus and crocheted pot holders. Sales were brisk for some, though no bigger than for tiny Millwood, which was selling itself as a town that could come together for a weekly serving of culture.
The town of 1,700 began discussing a farmers’ market in January after the Humble Earth Market on Spokane’s North Side lost its location at the corner of Ash and Wellesley. The Humble Earth folks approached Millwood about holding the market there, but eventually opted for the Aslin Finch parking lot at 10505 Newport Highway.
Millwood residents began drawing their own market plans, which were eventually picked up by the Presbyterian Church that just happened to have a portion of its parking lot zoned for small business.
“I think it’s been great,” said Craig Goodwin, Millwood Presbyterian pastor. “It’s kind of a first to have the church engaged in something that’s beyond its own program.”
The rules of the market were simple: Vendors had to personally grow or craft their wares. Wholesale operations were not allowed. Rent for the stall at the 3 to 7 p.m. market was set at $10 a day or $200 from May through October.
Warren Castor said the market couldn’t have worked better. The Pleasant Prairie farmer and his granddaughter, Ivey Stevens, 6, brought 30 multicolored eggs to the market and sold all but seven in the first half-hour.
“People want farm-fresh stuff. I don’t have to do much,” said Castor, who wasn’t the only one working the local-is-better angle.
David McCullough was handing out samples of beef sausage as fast as he could grill them. When one woman reaching for a wiener impaled on a toothpick remarked that the rancher’s samples reminded her of Costco, McCullough had a comeback ready.
“I can do something Costco can’t,” the rancher said. “I can tell you the name of that cow’s grandmother.”
Two booths down from McCullough, West Valley City School eighth-grader Conner Allen was working the same angle pretty hard. City School kids were selling perennials and vegetable plants to fund a weeklong field trip to Orcas Island.
“We grow our own stuff,” Allen said. “Our tomatoes, our Early Girls, I’m not trying to be mean, but they’re better than Home Depot’s or Lowe’s. Ours cost $2.50 and they’re 2-feet tall.”