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UW Grads Planning Farmers Market for Shoreline Town Center

Organizers for the future Shoreline Farmers Market hope to fill a community need near the town center.

When Brendan Lemkin and Maximilian Dixon met in a University of Washington biology class, they realized they had very similar interests. 

Their shared bond in environmental studies and a love for their home neighborhood of Shoreline eventually evolved into a more tangible goal, the creation of a new Shoreline farmers market just a stone's throw away from the city hall.

Lemkin and Dixon's idea originally started off as a school project while the two were undergraduates at UW.

After securing their degrees in environmental studies, the two began to move forward with their farmers market vision.

Beginning just last January, the two secured official support from the City of Shoreline as well as the Shoreline Community College, two contacts which Lemkin and Dixon say will be instrumental in making this farmers market a reality.

"The two of us grew up here," Dixon said. "Our mission with this project is to tie in to the Shoreline community, to support local growers and to put a focus on sustainability."

"When we met in conservation biology class, we recognized our niche situation," Lemkin said. "This started off as a learning project in community based learning. It became something more than that, and we just conveniently got school credit for it."

The pair are shooting for a Spring 2012 opening for the market, acknowledging that, while they were under some pressure to open for the 2011 season, they opted to take the more methodical approach.

Neither has experience in the farmers market business, and have yet to find a person to take up the position.

"We're looking for an outside hire to fill the manager role," Lemkin said. "If we can't find anyone however, either one of us would be more than willing to fill that role."

The pair will begin with approximately $25,000 in seed money to begin the market, though that is only a rough estimate with the projected opening being almost a year away.

The park itself will be across the street from Shoreline City Hall along Midvale Avenue.

Dixon and Lemkin's ultimate vision for the market is a 50 booth incarnation, spanning more than 7,500 feet of the park area near the Shoreline town center.

What the two don't want to do is intrude on other farmers markets in the area.

"The way we look at the Lake Forest Park market, we want to complement them," Lemkin said. "In no way do we want to detract from that established market. We're being especially sensitive about the neighborhood and I think the space between our market and others creates a large enough buffer zone."

"This market is first and foremost about sustainability," Dixon added. "I consider the two of us to be facilitators, bringing various elements of the community together to make this happen."

Dixon and Lemkin project that the market will begin with 20 to 30 booths, rising to 50 after the first few years. They do admit, though, the number of booths at the event has no real limit.

Constance Perenyi and Christina Martin, managers of the Lake Forest Park farmers market, have been in the farmers market game for years. To them, creating a successful farmers market environment is crucially about forming a community between the organizers, vendors and attendees. 

Their market has 52 registered vendors and takes in nearly $30,000 per year. This is the market's eighth year of operation.

"When we first started out, our profit margin was barely in the black, something like $13 to $17," Perenyi said. "The amount of money that this market makes is usually more than most other markets."

Martin, dually a vendor and a market manager, also oversees the Kirkland and Crossroads farmers markets. She says that attracting willing farmers to sell at new markets is a matter of dipomacy and takes careful utilization of established contacts in the industry.

"Lake Forest has seven vendors that come here from eastern Washington," Martin said. "Farmers like these try to hit multiple markets in the same day to cut down on rising fuel costs."

Martin also said that it's not uncommon for farmers market representatives to come into neighboring markets in order to poach vendors to their side.She also says that farmers take a big risk by committing to a market in Seattle.

While it can mean great profits for some, it can mean disaster for others.

"I once got a new farmer who showed up to his market with a bucket of onions and asked me 'when do we start?'" Martin said.

"A lot of farmers don't know that an opportunity like this takes good advertising and visibility. The more established vendors know what to grow in order to satisfy the consumer base. Even then, profits aren't guaranteed."

According to Martin and Perenyi, it takes a large amount of capital to start up a successful market, with a money sum close to the $25,000 that Dixon and Lemkin expect to have.

Fledgling markets also have to take sustainabilty and the Washington State Health Department into mind.

There are specific regulation on how to dump water, for example. Markets, according to Martin, are usually inspected twice a year by the Washington State Department of Health.

The market will be making a mini-debut at the Northwest Solar Fest July 16 at Shoreline Community College.

Wendy DiPeso June 24, 2011 at 04:27 PM
The Shoreline Farmers Market will debut at this years NW SolarFest July 16th at Shoreline Community College. Come and get a taste of what is to come at the Shoreline Farmers Market next year and enjoy the other fair events such as the beer garden, cooking with Solar with Graham Kerr, solar car races at the Kids Zone, see plastic turned back into oil, visit exhibits and in the early evening listen to Yoyoman Burning Band.
Steven June 24, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Thanks Wendy! Greetings from Shoreline Farmers Market! To stay updated on our progress please check us out at: http://shorelinefarmersmarket.blogspot.com/ We need volunteers! Join us to help make our community a better place! We look forward to hearing from you SFM
Wendy DiPeso June 25, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Brenden,..just a thought. Once the Shoreline Farmers Market is up and running it is going to draw additional business to the nearby vendors adjacent such as the nursery where they sell water barrels and Cedar Grove Compost. It is this kind of commerce that helps build community connections. Thanks for your commitment. Wish there were three more of me so I could help with this on top of everything else. I will certainly continue to mention Shoreline Farmers Market as an opportunity for people to get involved in something that will bring measurable results and self fulfillment.

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