Just a year ago, the historic community center on Monroe Road north of Wandermere was in danger of closing from a lack of members.
Longtime residents and newcomers around the Montfort School Community Center in Colbert rallied to keep the center going, and they’ve been coming up with new ways to re-energize this old gathering place.
They apparently have struck a chord, launching a farmers market this month that is drawing hundreds of customers.
Located in an alfalfa field behind the center, the new Montfort School Farmers Market is just the right setting for a shopping trip back to nature. The green fields in this traditional farm country on Half Moon Prairie are surrounded by a backdrop of mountains and foothills.
The market is held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, through Oct. 8.
“We are trying to offer the opportunity to come out and get local fruits and vegetables from the local farmers in this area,” said Lori Musgrave, market manager. “You get to meet the farmers. You get to meet the producers. You get to meet the people who are growing your items. It makes a difference when you know that your vegetables – your fresh cucumbers, your fresh lettuce – were picked that morning and it goes to your table that night.”
With the growing season just getting started in the Inland Northwest, the selection of local produce was limited to lettuce, rhubarb and greenhouse cucumbers last week. But more will show up as the season goes on. Still, there were plenty of shopping choices.
J.J. Orr, from the Shadow 7 Ranch near Horseshoe Lake, brought her homemade goat milk soaps along with sheep fleece raised on her spread.
Patti Kahl, of Airway Heights, had an extensive offering of vegetable and herb starts for summer gardens.
Cindy Peterson was offering free-range eggs in a rainbow of colors.
“Very few of the farmers markets have free-range eggs,” said Musgrave, who also manages a farmers market at Airway Heights.
The market also had crocheted blankets from Peggy Carter, who calls herself the “Afghan Lady,” as well as jewelry, custom frames, birdhouses, organic coffee and barbecue sauces from Frank Fletcher, of Mead. Fletcher is seeking approval to sell pulled-pork sandwiches during the weekly market.
Musgrave has been working through the Washington State Farmers Market Association and received a grant that allowed her to set up a wireless connection that can handle debit cards, credit cards and food stamps. The market also qualifies as an outlet for government-subsidized produce purchases, she said.
The market was forced into the alfalfa field of an adjoining property owner because county zoning regulations only allow direct marketing of farm products on active farms of nine acres or more. Musgrave said the adjacent owner generously agreed to allow the market to trample across a section of his field each week as a way to support the center.
The historic Montfort School dates to 1881 and has been a community center since 1946. It is getting a new coat of paint this spring.
Customer Brianna Dirks left the market with dill starts. “You are supporting the local businesses, the local people,” she said, and the products don’t have to be shipped long distances. “Plus, it’s nice to be outside,” she said.