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A closer look at the Bellingham Farmers Market

Thirty years, one pandemic and it's still thriving

Sophie Williams, 34, speaks with a customer at the farmers market in Bellingham, Wash. on Oct. 1, 2022. Williams said, “It’s really good to talk to people! I spend a lot of time working alone and then this is my interface with the community.” // Photo by Maylis Laverne

Many Bellinghamsters enjoy the Saturday Farmers Market in the depot square regularly, which is alive and well after 30 years of business. The market has kept running through the hard work of director Lora Liegel, the part-time staff, dedicated vendors and patrons who attend. 

The market, open weekly from April to December, has been under the care of Liegel since March 2019. Being introduced to the market just one year before the COVID-19 shutdown, she found herself consulting with the city of Bellingham and the Whatcom County Health Department to create a safe operational plan. The pandemic took its toll on the market, like many other businesses.

“We’ve really bounced back from where we were in 2020. We’ve gained a ton of support from customers, which we certainly appreciate,” Liegel said. “They really showed up in force for us, in terms of not only coming to market to visit but really making those purchases which our vendors needed.”

Sophie Williams, Ray and Brett Pinney and Jessica Mills are all business owners who have participated in the weekly farmers market for at least four years. 

Williams, baker and owner of Raven Bakery, has been part of the market community for eight years, and for the last two, she has served on the board of directors.

“I bake everything. It's all whole grain and organic, and we source almost everything directly from the producers,” Williams said. “I harvest almost all the fruit myself.” 

Pinney, with his mother and father, work to put together a beautiful display of jewelry and fractal burnt boxes at their family-run business, Creative Coils

“We try to get in there [the studio] probably three times a week and are in there for probably four to five hours, around 15 hours a week,” Pinney said.

Mills, the owner of MJ Esthetics, works with CBD. She makes skin and body products with Colorado CBD and raw ingredients as local as she can find. She has worked at many other markets, including the Fremont Market, but finds something special about Bellingham’s.

“I like that this farmers market has a small community feel,” Mills said. “They either have to be living in Whatcom or Skagit County to vend here, and you have to make your products.”

Ray Pinney- Farmers Market- 10/04/2022
Ray Pinney, 68, spends his Saturday vending at the farmers market in Bellingham, Wash. on Oct. 1, 2022. Pinney’s favorite part of the market is interacting with customers. // Photo by Maylis Laverne

Adelle Tower, a previous member of the Bellingham community, now lives in Bellevue, which has a market of its own.

“It is a lot smaller and a lot less selection, so this is my favorite farmers market,” Tower said. 

She finds herself returning to the Bellingham Farmers Market when she is back in town. 

Alyssa Tskad lives in Bellingham and attends the market almost every other week. 

“The sustainability and the support of local businesses is really awesome,” she said.

A new resident of Bellingham, Matthew Bramwell, has attended the market every week since moving. Like many other patrons, he has created a routine.

“I love the T-Shirt guy. I’ll take a look at his stand every time I come,” Bramwell said. “I always buy a loaf of bread when I come here, and then the diversity is pretty good; you’ve got a little bit of everything.”

Liegel has no plans to slow down the market while it is going strong. 

“Keep doing what we're doing and also think about tapping into more and more communities, trying to diversify the market, either our customer base or our vendors,” she said.

While the weekly markets will be coming to a close between December and April, there is a monthly market during those three winter months where customers can continue to support local vendors.

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