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By Alisha Dixon

The Western Front

A head of cabbage from Broad Leaf Farm was airborne this Saturday, April 6, as Mayor Kelli Linville passed it to her great-nephew. Continuing the cabbage toss tradition, the flying vegetable marked the opening day of the Bellingham Farmers Market.

Vendors, attendees and performers crowded in at Depot Market Square for the market, which has long showcased local Bellingham vendors and food.

The mayor became teary-eyed in an emotional moment before the cabbage toss, as it is the  last year she will be serving as mayor of Bellingham.

“The Bellingham Farmers Market is iconic of the city of Bellingham,” Linville said. “If you want to know what people in our community like to do, just look around you.”

Linville and farmers market staff explained how the market is an integral part of the Bellingham community.

“This market has done more than help the businesses and the enterprises that participate in the market,” Linville said. “It has generated over $1 million for the businesses within the city and surrounding area. We are thrilled that this market—every Saturday until the end of the year—is going to be giving people a chance to hone their entrepreneurial skills, to sell their great produce and food to our community.”

The opening day also welcomed Lora Liegel as the new director of the Bellingham Farmers Market. Liegel reminisced on visiting the market rain or shine, and said she is excited for new beginnings and growth opportunities for the market.

Bellingham Farmers Market Board President Nick Spring said new changes to the market this year include opening up a market in Barkley Village to run from June through September.

Vendors lined the Depot Market Square as customers and community members flocked to the market. Sarah Chan, founder of Calypso Kitchen, said the farmers market allows her to share her grandmother’s authentic Caribbean recipes with the community and helps grow her business.

“I get to meet everybody and share with people my food,” Chan said. “On top of selling the products that I sell, I teach Caribbean cooking classes, so I use the farmers market as a platform to advertise my classes and catering. It’s a good platform for marketing, for meeting all the local vendors and getting to know everybody and the food we’re eating here. I think it’s a really holistic experience.”

Chan is passionate about food security and sees that value shared in the farmers market, she said.

“Being around all these farmers and seeing how passionate they are about growing the food, but not just growing the food and selling it, they are passionate about making sure everybody has access to the food,” she said. “All these vendors try to find a way to do something with the food that’s left over, and I do the same. I love that about the community we live in.” 

Community was a shared theme among vendors. Western student Emma FitzGerell worked her first market with Bee Works Honey.

“It’s really fun to be here and create a community with food,” FitzGerell said.

Navigating the chaos of the market, FitzGerell said knowing enough about the honey and the bees is important. People like to know what is happening with their food, especially when it comes to local produce, she said.

While new faces like FitzGerell worked their first year at the market, Barbara Plaskett has been selling pottery through her business Creative Muds at the market for the last six years.

As an artist, Plaskett said she has a different experience at the market. While some vendors use it to start off a small business, Plaskett uses the market to bring joy into her life, she said. She discovered and found passion in sgraffito, a pottery technique that reveals layers of colors in different decorative designs. 

“My day job is dark. When you open up the kiln it’s like Christmas every day,” Plaskett said. “The colors and the designs and being able to express myself and make everything bright and sunny – that’s the objective.”

Inside the covered area of the Depot Market Square, Western alumni Dan Sweaney lined up his glass birds for display.

has been passionate about glass art for 45, he said.

When it comes to new goals and expectations for this season at the market, Sweaney said he wants to focus on making affordable glass cylinders.

“I quit my job at Western for a year and went to Finland, where I learned to make the cylinders,” Sweaney said. “Making as many of them as I can — that’s what I want to do.”

Right across from Sweaney’s booth hung handmade shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags under the name Coral Sue.

“I don’t use any presses,” Coral Sue owner of Coral Black said proudly.

All of Black’s products start out with her own drawings, inspired mostly by the outdoors, she said. She hand-carves the designs into blocks to use for printing onto her products by hand, she said.

Outside, crowds gathered around the Hot Lunch Sing-Along Fun Band, a group playing songs to raise donations for the Bellingham Food Bank. Consisting of Pam Sinnett, Rachael Leedy and Judy Pine, the band played instruments and harmonized to songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” encouraging others to sing along. Kazoos and percussions  were up for grabs for market attendees passing by, a factor that drew in many children to dance and play along.

“I like coming out on a Saturday morning. It seems really peaceful,” said attendee Kendall Kelly. “It’s cool seeing the things people can create. It’s nice being out here in the community,” she said.

The Bellingham Farmers Market runs every Saturday from April through December at the Depot Market Square from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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