Broadway Sunday Farmers Market ready for business this weekend

Local lovers of fresh produce who may have been disappointed when the Capitol Hill farmers market moved from 10th Avenue and East Pine Street for the more tony environs of Madison Park won't feel the pangs of withdrawal for long. Beginning this weekend, the Broadway Sunday Farmers Market officially opens for business.

Sponsored by the Farmers Market Alliance, a different organization, the new market will be located in the parking lot behind the Bank of America on Broadway and East Thomas Street.

The farmers' market was originally slated to open in 2004 on Harvard Avenue East, behind the Broadway Market, a location which required the street to be closed. While the idea of a farmers market was well received, during a planning stage that included city and community input, residents near that location felt the impacts would be too great.

The street closure was not allowed. With not enough time left to find another suitable location, the sponsoring organization postponed coming to Capitol Hill until this year.

According to Chris Curtis, director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, finding the Bank of America location was worth the wait. Getting permission from Bank of America, U-Park, Diamond Lots and Noah's Bagels took some effort. But the end result was a prime location with plenty of space.

"Overall everyone as been so supportive of bringing a farmers' market here," she said. "Broadway was always a natural community for a market."

The Farmers Market Alliance has its roots with the University District Farmers Market, which Curtis began in 1993. Starting with 17 vendors, the group slowly expanded, staging farmers markets in Columbia City, West Seattle, Lake City, Magnolia and now Broadway. Along the way the alliance established itself as a nonprofit, which enabled more flexibility in obtaining grants. Curtis said the group has a goal of complete self-sufficiency. With roughly 75 percent of expenses coming from vendor fees its not an unreasonable expectation.

For one thing, the number of farmers who participate in at least one of the group's markets has grown from 17 to more than 130. Roughly one-third are from King County; 70 percent are from the Puget Sound area, with the rest coming from east of the mountains.

"Our mission has been to support local farmers and I'm glad we've done that," Curtis said. "Farmers markets are economical and are social catalysts. People come out and talk to each other in ways they don't in a supermarket. People build extraordinary relationships with each other."

The Broadway market will begin with roughly 35 venders and increase to 45 by mid-June as seasonal produce is ready to be sold. Besides a wide variety of produce, baked goods are for sale, along with fresh pasta, cheeses, nuts, flowers as well as meat and salmon. Some farmers provide organic produce and are on hand to explain just what, exactly, is meant by organic.

Three-thousand people are expected on opening day. There will be live music, cooking demonstrations, an appearance by Mayor Greg Nickels and a group of draft horses that will pull a free trolley of riders up and down Broadway.

Curtis said she expects that the Broadway market will form relationships with local food banks and other social service providers as it becomes connected with the community; such relationships are well established in the alliance's other markets.

Curtis was not concerned that the market that just abandoned Broadway by the organization that sponsors the Fremont and Ballard markets was a sign the Broadway community wouldn't support the idea. She added that the farmers' markets could go year 'round if a covered area could be located. The produce would change with the seasons, of course. Seasonal changes are part of the appeal.

"We just kept on track regardless of their plans. I think we would have been fine if they had stayed," she said. "The Hill has a great demographic, and our venders are really looking forward to being here. I've yet to encounter anyone who has not loved the idea."

The Broadway Sunday Farmers Market begins operation on Sunday, May 15, and will run every Sunday through November 20. Cash is recommended, though many farmers accept checks. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, go to www.seattlefarmers

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at

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