It’s hard to beat summers in the South Sound, and farmers markets are just one wonderful side effect of this beautiful season. Beginning as early as April and running as late as December, local vendors bring fresh produce, handmade goods and tasty fare out nearly every day of the week during the Pacific Northwest’s sweetest season. Farmers markets offer a fun rain-or-shine experience for all ages that is equal parts commerce and community.
Farmers markets are community gathering places, open-air venues with all the ambiance of European markets and all the wholesome fun of a street fair. These free events are designed to introduce people to local businesses, farmers and artisans to promote agriculture and community vitality. Events like these nurture small businesses, promote sustainable lifestyle options, and keep local dollars in our community.
More than a dozen farmers markets assemble this time of year — a heavy concentration of which are centrally located in and around Tacoma. Every venue, however, has its own unique charm and appeal.
1. Tacoma Farmers Market
The Tacoma Farmers Market consists of several venues in several neighborhoods and takes place over the course of several days. Tuesday through Sunday slow food fanatics can find their fix at one of five markets scattered throughout city.
2. Broadway Farmers Market
The vibrant and bustling Broadway Market (Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., May to October annually) was established in 1990 and is now in its 26th year. Here, you’ll find more than 80 vendors selling high-quality fruits, vegetables, specialty foods and artisan crafts. Located in the shadow of the historic Pantages Theater, this venue features a wide line-up of hot food vendors and plentiful café seating. There’s farm fresh produce, homemade jams and salsa, and plenty of activities for kids of all ages. To keep things interesting, this farmers market also offers plenty of peripheral activities such as chef’s demos, gardening advice, live music from local bands and more.
3. 6th Avenue, Eastside and South Tacoma Farmers Markets
The 6th Avenue Market (Tuesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., June to August annually) and Eastside Farmers Market (Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., June to August) introduce great local vendors and sustainable farm-to-table food to other nearby neighborhoods, plus some great baked goods. On hot days, South Tacoma Market (Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., June to August) makes its home around the spray park, ideal for splashing. The MultiCare Market (Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in August), situated among more than 2,000 rose plants that beautify the healthcare corridor, brings fresh produce, live music and beautiful flowers to the neighborhood. Visit TFM’s Facebook for details about the live music or special-event vendors that will be on-site for any given market day. Each of TFMs are proud to support and accepts EBT, WIC and Senior Vouchers.
4. Lakewood Farmers Market
Lakewood’s Farmers Market, which meets around the fountain near City Hall (Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., June to September), is a wonderful weekday market in its fifth year. New in 2016 is a master gardener speaker series, which will take place every market day, and also a fantastic sequence of chef demonstrations once a month. There’s live music and entertainment, a wine and beer garden, and a full fathom of food trucks and vendors that represent local merchants and makers. For the youth, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Kids 16 and younger can visit the St. Clare Hospital Booth to receive $2 in Healthy Bucks, eligible to spend on fresh fruits and veggies at the market. Youth are also welcome to sell hand-made items and provide live entertainment on Kids’ Day (July 26, 2016), a market day that aims to teach enterprising kiddos how to produce the product they are selling, marketing skills, public communication and sales.
5. Puyallup Farmers Market
The Puyallup Farmers Market (Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., April to October annually) sets up camp in the scenic Pioneer Park. Adjacent to the library and City Hall, this city-central market has a family atmosphere complete with a spray park, face painting, games and activities. Check out the main stage on select weekends to catch performances from local talent, and visit Puyallup Main Street Association’s Pinterest board and Facebook to find recipes shared or inspired by market vendors and local eateries. Plenty of hot food and cool drinks keep shoppers fueled up and hydrated, and a wide variety of goods supplement a robust selection of locally grown berries, fruits, vegetables and flowers.
6. Orting Valley Farmers Market
Surrounded by pastoral farmlands and located at North Park along the Orting Trail, Orting Valley Farmers Market (Fridays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., June to September) offers up a distinctly rural experience. A small town with a big view, this market offers quick access to the salmon-bearing Puyallup and Carbon Rivers, dramatic views of Mount Rainier, one of the region’s best biking and hiking trails, picnic areas, playground, restaurants, shops, and a quaint area to discover. In addition to 40 vendors, the organization also offers all kinds of free entertainment, demonstrations and activities, children’s programing, fantastic food and more. A concert series at the market will bring blues, jazz, rock music and more to shoppers and visitors all season long. At the Independence Day Celebration, look forward to the annual Clash of the Pie Tins apple pie contest, Cherry Pit Spitting Competition, Water Balloon Toss, Zucchini Car Races, and more. A full schedule of events is available on the market homepage as well as on Facebook.
7. Steilacoom Farmers Market
Beautiful coastal views await when you celebrate local agriculture at the scenic beach town market in Steilacoom (Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.). Here you’ll find standard market offerings — fresh produce, seafood, honey, fresh-baked breads, plant starts and flowers — and so much more. There’s face painting for kids of all ages, cooking demonstrations that utilize the best picks of the day, unique coloring books, Pacific NW photography, handmade jewelry and textile art. Food trucks fill the corner of Lafayette & Wilkes Streets with mouth-watering aromas that are hard to resist after working up an appetite shopping around. Look forward to live concerts from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. beginning June 29 at Pioneer Orchard Park, too. In support of community wellness, Steilacoom Farmers Market welcomes payments using WIC, Senior FMNP, and WA Quest cards starting in July when produce is abundant and at its peak.
8. Gig Harbor Farmers Market
Last but certainly not least, Gig Harbor offers one of the most accommodating schedules in Pierce County with three different markets at three different venues on three different days. The Saturday Market (from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) runs from April to December every year at the former Peninsula Gardens. From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the Sunday Market in the Uptown Shopping Center runs from April to September. The Waterfront Farmers Market (Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., June to August) at Skansie Brothers Park is the newest addition to the circuit and celebrates its second season in 2016. This market offers all the knicks and knacks, fresh produce and flowers, food and wholesome fun as other Gig Harbor markets, plus an opportunity to take a scenic jaunt in a gondola on the bay. Wherever you land in Gig Harbor, you can look forward to loads of live entertainment, expert advice from gardeners and cooking demonstrations delivered by local chefs.
9. Visit Your Local Markets
If you haven’t made your way to one yet, set a course for a farmers market in your neighborhood and beyond. Bring yourself, bring the family, and bring a big basket, because the produce, street food and handmade crafts cross the South Sound are ripe for the plucking now through the summer season.