One way to create community is to meet together over food. In the absence of a table large enough to seat all of North Seattle, meeting over the food in the increasing numbers of farmers' markets should work just fine.
At least, that is the theory of Jon Hegeman, who is behind a good number of the farmers' markets popping up each week in Seattle neighborhoods. The Ballard, Wallingford and Madrona farmers' markets and the Fremont Sunday Market are his creations, and the recently opened Queen Anne Farmers' Market is his newest.
PART OF THE CULTURE
Hegeman (who is coy about his age) and his wife, Candace, were living in Europe when Candace, a craftsperson/designer, began spending time in the various markets, especially in Portobello Road, London, where she was a vendor.
"They are very colorful and an important part of the European culture," Hegeman said.
They were charmed by the close contacts the markets provided for whole communities, and eventually they wanted to try to duplicate the experience here in Seattle.
The Fremont market was first, in 1990, encouraged by the local authorities. It began in the fall as a flea market, crafts market and farmers' market on the European mixed-market model with a little bit of everything.
An invitation from Ballard resulted in another market there, and that oone continues to be the biggest of the farmers' markets under Hegeman's direction.
After about five years Fremont became more of a flea market, and it continues as such today, and, he said, that turned out to be a very good change.
"The markets have evolved some since then," Hegeman said. "We let the markets be what they want to be."
The University District Farmers' Market was created in 1993 with Hegeman's help and advice, and both of those markets are members of the Neighborhood Farmers' Market Alliance.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Hegeman said the markets started out as a hobby, but, "eventually, the weekend hobby overtook the career path."
He gave up the day job in the advertising industry and began operating the markets full-time.
Hegeman is actually from New Hampshire and went to college in upstate New York. When he returned from Europe in 1981, the air traffic controllers' strike forced him to interrupt his trip back to the East Coast. The interruption is still in progress.
Timing for the markets was nearly perfect. Just a short time after Hegeman began his markets, the market idea took off nationwide as part of an environmental awareness and a lifestyle choice.
"We were a little ahead of that curve, but we were in the right place at the right time," he said.
Hegeman personally supervises the Fremont Sunday Market. The farmers' markets are directed by Judy Kirkhuff, who is the real architect of the markets, Hegeman said. Kirkhuff is officially the "market master," who takes care of all the details on market day.
According to Kirkhuff, customers for the Seattle farmers' markets are in the 21-to-39 age range and have families. She said that the customers also tend to live within one or two miles of the place the market sets up. "So it really is local," she said.
Do the neighborhood markets compete with the Pike Place Market for customers? No, according to Kirkhuff: "Pike Place is the granddaddy of them all," she said.