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Market offerings change as summer wanes

Susan and Paul Puhek stood proudly Saturday beside their cipollini onions, purple carrots and yellow pear tomatoes, which will be replaced shortly by “crops that like the cooler weather.”

These crops include apples, pears, peaches and usually corn. Even though fall is on the horizon after the Labor Day holiday, area farmers markets will continue, some into late October. For end-of-season crops, the Puheks will welcome more onions, potatoes, and after the first frost, pie pumpkins, until the last day of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market on Oct. 16.

“The market is an ever-changing place,” Susan Puhek said. “Mother Nature dictates a lot of how to grow things.”

Paul Puhek said that due to the extension of the market season, many farmers are trying to extend their growing season.

For example, in the past the Puheks experimented with hoop tunnels. They are constructed by placing small wire hoops in the ground and covering the hoops with plastic to make a mini greenhouse. The tunnels, usually about 18 inches tall, trap sunlight to keep the soil warm. The Puheks used them in the spring when they planted spinach. Paul Puhek said he knows of some farms that use them for the entire season.

Scott Thaler, husband of market organizer Lori Thaler, said he believes the change of the market is part of the allure.

“The different, changing crops are what attract people to the market,” Thaler said.

Spokane Valley resident Stephanie Cates said what is most important to her when choosing produce is freshness and the experience of the market.

“I just love coming out here. It’s fun to walk around,” Cates said.

Lori Thaler said the market board aims to keep a variety of farmers.

“We try to keep a higher percentage of farmers as vendors to keep the market authentic,” Thaler said.

The Puheks also are on the board of directors that approves vendors for the Liberty Lake market.

“We want people to be involved with what they’re selling, and be honest,” Paul Puhek said.

The Puheks said before the market started 10 years ago they had no practical place to sell their produce.

“The advent of the farmers market has been a boon for the small farm. Half of the vendors here wouldn’t be in business without it,” Paul Puhek said.