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Carnation Market starts brand-new season Tuesday
Things will seem a lot different to dedicated shoppers of the Carnation Farmers Market on opening day, May 1.
It's still a food-and-farm-only market, and the maypole, chalk art and doughnut-eating contests, and live music will still be there, but the face of the market has changed this year, with the hire of Melissa Borsting as the new market manager, and the phase 1 construction of a permanent shelter on the market's traditional grounds.
Borsting, a North Bend resident with a background in forest ecology and a growing interest in "how do we have a sustainable community, and a sustainable economy?", replaces Heidi Bohan as market manager.
She had worked at the Cedar River Watershed, but missed the community connection of that job, she said.
"I also had a baby, who at some point started eating at the table with us," she continued.
That life change led to others, as she improved the family's eating habits, and started teaching her son where his food came from. She got involved with Sno-Valley Tilth farmers last year when she decided to create a "local Thanksgiving box" project, providing all locally-grown ingredients for the holiday meal.
"It was all within 100 miles of the Valley," she said, and largely from Tilth members. She joined the group and became an active member, which is how she first learned of the market manager position. Other members encouraged her to apply, and, since she wanted to do more with community-building, she decided to try.
"It's such a community market, it's been really cool," she said.
Borsting will launch the market's first extended season, thanks to the new community shelter on site. With room for at least eight vendor stalls and market traffic, the cedar structure will make it possible for the market to continue through Tuesday, Nov. 20 this year.
The possibility of extending the market season, which usually ended in September, was the main reason Carnation received a $34,000 USDA grant for the building, said Carnation City Manager Ken Carter. "You have a roof. You can extend the season, which increases employment, which is why we got the grant in the first place… the whole idea is an economic development engine. People come to the market, and then they might eat at a restaurant, or shop at a local store, or fill up their car. As the market is successful, it helps the city."
The grant was just a start for the shelter project. Carnation also contributed $20,000 to the shelter and Tilth, $18,000 plus significant in-kind work, Carter noted. King County also contributed $10,000 to the project. The shelter is city property, with a use agreement allowing the Tilth to use it Tuesdays for the farmers market.
Eventually, Borsting hopes to add another day of the week to the market schedule, too. For now, though, the shelter is essentially a roof. Power, water and sewer lines have not been connected yet, since the project is out of funds for phase 1 construction.
Phase 2, utility hookups and finishing out the central covered area with sinks and restrooms, may have to wait. Carnation can't afford any improvements this year, not without a strong partnership with another agency. The Tilth will likely be involved in future improvements to the shelter, stakeholders agree, but others will have to help, as well.
"There's no one entity that can afford to do it," explained Carter.
Possible partners, according to Carter and several city councilmen, include private businesses, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and the Carnation Chamber of Commerce, already key stakeholders in the community.
"I'd like to see that shelter kind of be the cornerstone of a vibrant little town-center plaza, a little gathering place for the community," said Mayor Jim Berger.
Councilman Fred Bereswill saw it as a community park, with picnic tables, barbecue pits, and outdoor movie screenings. But all agreed that it would take one or more partners, working in collaborative effort, to complete the project.
"And that's ecology, right?" said Borsting. "With diversity, you're going to have a stronger result.A dedication ceremony for the shelter is tentatively planned for opening day of the market at 4:30 p.m., following the maypole dance. For more information, visit carnationfarmersmarket.org.