The Magic Behind Spokane’s Longest-Running Farmers Market

Northwest Community Wednesday, September 12, 2018 Written by

When Karyna Goldsmith joined the Thursday Market in the South Perry District seven years ago, the weekly farmers market was fairly small and charming.

In the years since then, the farmers market took off. It added vendors, drew new crowds and otherwise picked up steam to where it is today. Close to 60 vendors and an average of 2,000 shoppers show up each week.

But for Goldsmith, the market director, the goal has never really been about the growth.

“It’s grown immensely, but now I think we want to grow in a real mindful way and maintain our focus on our mission of benefitting the farmers and the community,” she says. “We aren’t trying to take over the world, but we are trying to do bigger and better things for our community.”

For the Thursday Market, that’s meant a few different things. For starters, the farmers market strives to provide fresh, healthy, locally grown food and locally crafted products. Not only does it serve Spokane’s South Perry neighborhood, but also the larger Spokane community. It’s held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday in a parking lot at 924 South Perry Street. The market is open from early May to late October, making it the longest-running seasonal market in Spokane. Goldsmith says the location sits between a more affluent part of town and one that’s on the cusp of poverty.

The result is just one component behind the market’s singularity.

“You get a neat mix of cultures that is really authentic to what the community is all about,” Goldsmith says. “The market is really housed in the community, and that creates some of the ambiance and experience that you see in more urban areas like Seattle that have had these markets for decades.”

The market’s mix of vendors makes it unique as well. Of the 60 or so vendors, about 75 percent of them are farmers from around the area. The current lineup includes places like:

  • Ace of Spades Farm in Spokane
  • Elithorp Farm in Deer Park, Washington,
  • and Aichele Farms in Stanfield, Oregon.

The market tips heavily toward farmers. But some prepared food vendors — Brunchkin and Hierophant Meadery, for example — and a few arts and crafts purveyors fill out the ranks. The market hosts live music every week, too.

“Everyone produces the food or crafts themselves to sell,” Goldsmith says. “There are no third parties whatsoever.”

The variety of vendors and the unique space that the farmers market calls home help give the whole scene a signature feel.

“It’s a small parking lot, not a big street or a park,” Goldsmith says, “so we all have to get to know each other and get together and just fit in the space we have, so a close community is created.”

In addition to making fresh and local produce available to the community, the Thursday Market also makes education and food access part of its mission. The Kids Eating Right Nutrition and Exercise for Life program not only teaches youngsters about nutrition and healthy food, but also gives participants $2 in KERNEL Cash to spend at the market. Last year, the market did $3,500 in KERNEL Cash sales. This year it’s on track to boost that by at least 15 percent, according to Goldsmith.

Similarly, the farmers market accepts food stamps. But it goes even a step beyond that. Shoppers get $2 to spend on fruits and vegetables for every $5 they spend in food stamps. One shopper on a visit this season spent $100 in food stamps and earned $40 more to spend on produce.

“I just think it’s so neat that these federal monies are going into our local economy,” Goldsmith says. “And then at the end of every market, a local food bank comes and collects any leftover food that they can use. The whole thing is just a real feel-good kind of place.”

The Thursday Market runs from 3 to 7 p.m. every Thursday from May 3 through October 25 at 924 South Perry Street in Spokane. For more information, visit www.thursdaymarket.org.

Read our 8 Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets