Trust us when we tell you that we’ve spared you sturm und drang and bring you straight to the happy conclusion (for now).
The Wallingford Farmers Market has known for some time now that its home in the parking lot south of Wallingford Center was temporary: a number of Wallingford Center businesses resented the loss of the parking spaces they were promised as part of their lease and, in any case, the area set aside for the market simply wasn’t big enough. According to Jon deLeeuw, Vice President of the Wallingford Community Council, who, along with his partner Kara Ceriello, president of the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce, have been working with the the Farmers Market Association to resolve the situation, the market needs at least 30 – 35 stalls to be profitable. Wallingford’s Farmers Market has been operating with far fewer in the limited space it has.
As of next week’s market (Wednesday, September 1st), it will be moving, but fear not, you’ll be able to hit the new spot with a potato hurled from the old. After evaluating and rejecting (or, more often, being rejected by) numerous other spots, an agreement has been reached to move it just outside the Center. SDOT will close down the northbound lane of Wallingford Ave between 44th and 45th St on market day afternoons, and the market will be held along the east side of the street. Traffic will still be able to travel southbound and parking will be available in the lot and along the west side of the street.
The new arrangement, while not ideal, has several advantages. Not only does it free up the Wallingford Center parking lot for Wallingford Center businesses, but it provides more room for more stalls. We’re told that the Farmers Market has been turning away prospective vendors for lack of room to put them.
Of course, it hasn’t been without its detractors, either. At least one business along Wallingford Ave objected to the idea of closing even part of the street, for fear that it would interfere with their regular customers’ ability to access the shop, and it’s not clear what the new traffic pattern will be for northbound traffic (all the side streets near Wallingford Ave and 44th are narrow and further blocked by traffic circles. (According to Jon, though, SDOT’s data shows that most of the traffic that time of day is southbound, not northbound, in any case).
So, good news for the market, for now. Jon emphasized that this was a trial period in the new location, and that this compromise was hard-won but tenuous. If you’d like to discuss this with community members as well as market and government representatives, there will be a community meeting this coming Tuesday, August 31st at 7 pm (doors at 6) at the Wallingford Senior Center at the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N). It is open to all residents, business owners and anyone who attendes the Farmers Market, along with representatives from the Seattle Office of Economic Development and Department of Transportation.
It’s a welcome development, especially in light of Vanessa Ho’s recent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligence, Does Seattle Have Too Many Farmers Markets? Noting the growth of markets around the city, with every neighborhood wanting their own, some of the farmers are apparently starting to feel stretched too thin. She quotes Wade Bennett, of Rockridge Orchards, as saying “But it’s becoming a burden. What has happened for most farmers is we’re killing ourselves and we’re actually making less money.”
When I asked Jon to square this with the fact that the Wallingford Farmers Market is turning away prospective vendors, he noted that there may be oversaturation, but that is mainly on the weekend markets. Wallingford has one of the fewer weekday markets, meaning there’s less competition for the buyers.
And, of course, there’s other changes afoot to enable hyperlocal produce: the City of Seattle just passed an ordinance that makes it legal to sell produce grown on an “urban farm” of areas up to 4,000 sq ft, essentially turning every backyard in the neighborhood into a commercial farm. We had a chat with Jenny Pell of PermaCulture Now at the Pirates and Pipsqueaks carnival over the weekend, and she hinted that she was brewing up an idea for a collaborative, farm located throughout Wallingford. Details forthcoming.
The new ordinance also increased the legal number of chickens from three to eight. This allows us to rest easier, as we no longer have to push squawking birds under the floorboards when the Chicken Inspector comes around.