Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cashmere Farmers Market celebrates milestone, nonprofit status

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CASHMERE - The Cascade Community Markets, which include the Leavenworth and Cashmere Farmers Markets, have a few reasons to celebrate as the 2024 season opens.

The organization has reached its 15-year anniversary and just earned official 501(c)(3) status, making it a federally tax-exempt nonprofit. 

Cali Osborne, Executive Director of Cascade Community Markets, said the organization has worked for years to achieve 501(c)(3) status.

“This had been a goal since its formation, but the work was always too much without full-time staff to sort through five years of financials and write the 40-page application,” Osborne said.

“I believe all non-profits hope to become a 501(c)(3),” founding board member Eron Drew said. 

“It cements the non-profit status and allows the market to accept donations but also apply for grants that would otherwise be unavailable,” Drew said. “This is a great achievement and one the current board should be proud of accomplishing.”

Osborne said that the Cashmere Market opened for its fourth season on May 12, making it the first Farmers Market effort to stick it out in Cashmere.

The Leavenworth Community Farmers Market is moving to Saturdays and back to its original home at Lions Park. 

The Leavenworth Market will open for the 2024 season on Saturday, June 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lions Park.

“The Leavenworth Market is changing day for the first time in 15 years and it's relocating back to the original location that the community just loved,” Osborne said. 

“While the Board of Directors aims to bring more shoppers to the Market, the goal isn’t to simply capture more tourism dollars,” Osborne said. “The goal is to harness the power of tourism to support our local small businesses and thereby create a stronger and more vibrant market for residents.”

“I believe the market has been struggling a bit with visibility while it has been located at Osborn,” Drew said. “I am hoping that this challenge is overcome by relocating back to the downtown corridor.”

The Leavenworth Market began in 2008 when a group of vendors got together to discuss starting a new Farmers Market in Leavenworth. 

“Danielle Gibbs, Jerrilyn Delaney, Eron Drew had been vending at the Leavenworth Farmers Market on Tuesdays, then owned and managed by the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market,” Osborne said.Along with other vendors and community members, they realized it was time for a change and decided to start a new market and operate it themselves.”

“So in 2009, the Leavenworth Community Farmers Market was founded with a mission to promote both community and local agriculture,” Osborne said. “They opened on Thursday evenings and soon found a location at Lions Club Park.”

Osborne said traditions set in, and the Leavenworth Market became the community's cornerstone.

However, 2020 led to changes for the market. 

“The market was forced to relocate, it was hot on the pavement, booths were spaced out and some vendors didn’t attend, but it still provided a weekly outdoor space for the community to connect and the turnout was excellent,” Osborne said. “And after that particularly strange year, the Market found a new home at the School District Office on Evans Street and settled in for three relatively smooth seasons.”

“Meanwhile, in the summer of 2020, a group of Cashmere residents got together and applied for and received a grant to kick off a new Farmers Market,” Osborne said. 

LCFM was contracted to manage the first season for the Cashmere Community Farmers Market in 2021. After a successful first year, the committee gifted the Cashmere market to LCFM.

“Once the Markets were formally merged, the business name “Leavenworth Community Farmers Market” was no longer a good fit,” Osborne said. “With the help of consultant Julie Edsforth, the board decided to rebrand and reorganize the business as Cascade Community Markets, a name to represent both market locations equally.”

“In 2022, the Cashmere Market was relocated to its current home at the Cashmere Museum and has been steadily growing ever since,” Osborne said. “Still open on Sundays from Mothers Day through mid October and now in its 4th season, the Cashmere Market is on its way to becoming another community cornerstone.”

In 2023, the Cascade Community Markets Board of Directors reviewed the Leavenworth Market. After the 2022 season, they noticed that vendor sales had hit a plateau in 2016 and that in 2022, vendors made the same amount on average as they had six years prior, Osborne said. 

“Other farmers markets in the state have seen consistent growth, even through the pandemic, as have most local businesses,” Osborne said.

“The Board quickly realized that this plateau could be a permanent trend and if they didn’t fix it, they would continue to lose vendors, struggle to replace them, and under-serve both the community and the vendors who rely on the Market,” she said.

“After interviewing key stakeholders, surveying the community and the vendors, and working with the City and Chamber of Commerce, the board concluded that the Leavenworth Community Farmers Market should relocate back to Lions Club Park and transition to Saturday mornings,” Osborne said. 

The committee cited the need to harness tourism to support the numerous vendors whose products aren’t necessarily weekly purchases for resident shoppers but which the residents still want to buy locally, she said. 

“For example, jams, honeys and soaps are classic farmers market products but if the clientele is exclusively local and only buys those things once a month at best, the vendors can’t justify attending the market every week,” she said. “And if they only attend once a month, the whole market suffers from seeming small and inadequately stocked the rest of the month.” 

“But those products are exactly what tourists love to buy, so if the market harnesses that potential, we expect to see those vendors, and many like them, every week - thriving and serving both residents and visitors,” she said. 

“The same can be said for artists, meat and cheese vendors, jewelers, and even prepared food vendors, all of which the market’s shoppers have been asking for for years,” she said.

There are only 20 days of markets in Leavenworth each season, and the vendors, many of whom make their money seasonally, need every one of them. She said this is another reason the board cited for the change to Saturday mornings. 

The board chose a morning market time to address high summer temperatures.

“The past several seasons have seen multiple heat waves of over 106 degrees and extremely poor air quality that have caused numerous market cancellations,” she said. “While little can be done for the smoke, the board felt the second most important thing to fix about the market was the oppressively hot weather of summer afternoons in Leavenworth.”

“Vendors were arriving at the market as early as 2 p.m. each week, meaning they packed, drove, and set up in the heat of the day, all of which was terrible for the produce and decidedly worse for the vendors,” she said. “Cases of heat exhaustion and last minute cancellations were becoming all too common. So the move to the mornings was essential to keep the market open for as many weeks as possible.”

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media.

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