Blaine Gardener’s Market grows roots in the community

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By Sarah Sharp

It’s not often that Blaine closes its downtown streets – let alone for fruit and vegetables – but Ron Snyder wants to make that happen every Saturday.

Snyder and his wife Cathy Taggett have high hopes the Blaine Gardener’s Market on H Street Plaza will eventually outgrow the plaza and turn into a “giant street party.” Snyder envisions a celebration the size of Blaine’s Fourth of July – only with fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods and potted plants in lieu of parade floats.

“Our goal is to see Blaine be a better place for all its people,” he said. “And things like the market make Blaine a better place.”

Every Saturday from late May through October 10 a.m.–2 p.m., vendors of all kinds bring the market to life in downtown Blaine. They sometimes change from week to week, but the spirit of the market – high quality goods at a reasonable price – remains the same, Snyder said.

Vendors sell a variety of goods, including jewelry, handmade soap, yogurt, lotion, produce, canned jams and jellies, wood carvings, planters, hand sewn and knitted items, glass art and baked goods. Most vendors are from Blaine, though a few come from other towns within North Whatcom County, Snyder said.

He and Taggett started the market in 2008, shortly after moving to Blaine and recognizing a void in their newfound home: fresh, local food. At first, they pined for a farmer’s
market.

“But the problem was, unlike Lynden, we don’t have any farms here,” Synder said, laughing. “We have gardens.”

The first gardener’s market exceeded all their expectations. Twenty-six vendors showed up, overflowing the plaza and sprawling down the sidewalk. One year later, the Blaine Chamber of Commerce officially sponsored the event.

IMG_8258MOSnyder and Taggett make no money as organizers. They charge a modest $2–4 fee per vendor space, all of which goes to advertising in The Northern Light. It’s not uncommon for children to shell out a couple of dollars from their allowance money to sell their own homemade goods, Synder said.

“Our goal was to provide an opportunity for people who were not farmers – young people, old folks, children, anybody – to come and sell whatever they wanted that they made or grew,” he said.

But Snyder sees the market as encompassing more than just the vendors who paid for their spots.

“This is the reality,” he said. “Every store that you can see from the market is the market. They feed us, and we feed them. Our customers cross the street and go to their store. Their customers cross the street and come to the market.”

This symbiotic relationship, he believes, is integral to attracting more people to Blaine. He encourages Blaine residents to show up to the market, even if it’s sans wallet, to simply say hello to friends and neighbors.

“People driving by will think something is going on so they’ll stop, and they will have their wallets on them,” he said. “That will help Blaine, and in the long run, that will help you.”

Snyder said two words exemplify the market: sustainable and resilient. After eight years, the market is beginning to appear sustainable, he said.

What’s more important is its resilience.

“Having local food available to the local people gives the community more resilience in the case of an emergency,” he said. “We live in earthquake country. I’d like to know that someone is growing food out here. In a major 9.5 earthquake, who’s going to help us if we can’t help ourselves?”

In order to attain that resilience, the community will have to ensure the market lives on through changes in vendors and organization, Snyder said. But he’s hopeful the market’s popularity will reflect its longevity.

“The market will outlive us, and I mean that literally,”he said.

For more information, contact Ron Synder or Cathy Taggett at 360/332-8082. 

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