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Farmers markets are a growth industry in South Sound

As the days get longer, there’s more than asparagus sprouting around Thurston and Pierce counties. Farmers market season is upon us.

And there’s more of them than ever.

With the addition of the Eastside market on June 17, Tacoma will have five. On June 4, Gig Harbor gets a new food-focused waterfront market at Skansie Brothers Park. The Thursday market is for farm and food products only.

In Thurston County, a number of market anniversaries are being celebrated. The grand dame of farmers markets in the South Sound, the Olympia Farmers Market, turns 40 years old. Tumwater’s is 10, and even West Olympia is marking five years.

Olympia’s markets might be having an impact on its food culture. Residents of the capitol city were the most likely to report having easy access to affordable fruits and vegetables in 2012-2013 among 189 U.S. metro areas, according to Gallup-Healthways.

Despite Olympia’s longevity and Tacoma’s wide reach, the biggest farmers market is Puyallup, with 200 vendors at its summer peak.

In Tacoma, both the consortium of four markets that make up the Tacoma Farmers Markets as well as the independent Proctor Farmers Market are participating in the “Fresh Bucks” program. It allows anyone using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT) food stamp benefits to get a match of up to $10 to buy fruits and vegetables at each market.

“Fresh Bucks” participants could cut their weekly produce bills in half by visiting as many as all five markets in Tacoma (which are held on different days) and receiving the $10 match per day all season long.

Every market has its own season — some don’t start up until June. They also have their own personalities — unique mixes of customers, vendors, and the products and food they sell. Some markets focus on food straight from the farm, others include processed foods, and some are quasi craft fairs.

Each market has its own bylaws and rules. Though the markets focus on selling food that is fresh, seasonal, local and organic, the definitions of those terms vary. Aspargus in May? Seasonal. Apples in May? Not seasonal. Rhubarb? Locally grown. Coffee? Not locally grown.

Read signs, ask questions. Farmers markets allow customers to have conversations with the people who grow and make the food that’s for sale.

Below is a list of farmers markets in both counties. Check your favorites carefully as some have changed locations, hours and days. In addition, market websites have information on special events and programs, lists of vendors, what’s for sale, EBT acceptance and more.

PIERCE COUNTY

Tacoma 6th Avenue

Where: North Pine and Sixth Avenue, Tacoma

When: 3-7 p.m. Tuesdays

Season: Now through Sept. 29

Vendors: 30

Website: tacomafarmersmarket.com

Tacoma Broadway

Where: Ninth and Broadway, Tacoma

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays

Season: Now through Oct. 29

Vendors: 70

Website: tacomafarmersmarket.com

Tacoma Proctor

Where: North Proctor and North 27th streets, Tacoma

When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays

Season: Now through Dec. 19

Vendors: 51

Website: proctorfarmersmarket.com

Tacoma South

Where: The STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Season: June 7-Sept. 27

Vendors: 30

Website: tacomafarmersmarket.com

East Tacoma

Where: E. 44th Street and Portland Avenue, Tacoma (parking lot of community health center)

When: 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays

Season: June 17-Sept. 30

Vendors: 30

Website: tacomafarmersmarket.com

Gig Harbor Peninsula Gardens

Where: Former Peninsula Gardens, 5503 Wollochet Drive NW, Gig Harbor

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays

Season: Now through Dec. 20

Vendors: 65

Website: gigharborfarmersmarket.com

Gig Harbor Uptown

Where: Uptown Gig Harbor, 4701 Pt. Fosdick Drive, Gig Harbor, Near Blazing Onion

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays

Season: Now through September

Vendors: 20

Website: gigharborfarmersmarket.com

Gig Harbor Waterfront

Where: Skansie Brothers Park, 3211 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor

When: 3-7 p.m. Thursdays

Season: June 4-September

Vendors: 40

Website: gigharborwaterfront.org

Puyallup

Where: Pioneer Park and Pavilion, 330 S. Meridian, Puyallup

When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays

Season: Now through Oct. 17

Vendors: 200

Website: puyallupmainstreet.com

Puyallup Sunset

Where: Pioneer Park and Pavilion, 330 S. Meridian, Puyallup

When: 4-8 p.m. Thursdays (with Concerts in the Park)

Season: June 25 through Sept. 17

Vendors: 25

Website: puyallupmainstreet.com

Steilacoom

Where: Next to Steilacoom Town Hall, corner of Lafayette and Wilkes streets, Steilacoom

When: 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays (6:30 p.m. summer concerts)

Season: June 24-Aug. 26

Vendors: 45

Website: townofsteilacoom.org

Lakewood

Where: Lakewood City Hall plaza, 6000 Main Street, Lakewood

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays

Season: June 2-Sept. 15

Vendors: 50

Website: www.cityoflakewood.us/parks-and-recreation/farmer-s-market

Orting Valley

Where: North Park at Highway 162 and Calistoga Street

When: 3-7 p.m. Fridays

Season: June 19-Aug. 28 plus Sept. 11 and Oct. 10

Vendors: 40

Website: www.ortingvalleyfarmersmarket.com/

THURSTON COUNTY

Olympia

Where: 700 Capitol Way N., Olympia

Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Days: April through October: Thursdays-Sunday, November-December: Saturdays and Sundays, January-March: Saturdays

Vendors: 100

Website: olympiafarmersmarket.com

Olympia West

Where: West Central Park, 1919 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia

When: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays,

Season: Now through mid-October

Vendors: 17

Web: wolyfarmersmarket.org

Tumwater

Where: Capitol Boulevard and Israel Road, Tumwater

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays

Season: Now through September

Vendors: 24

Web: tumwaterfarmersmarket.org

Yelm

Where: Nisqually Springs Farm, 17835 SR 507 SE, Yelm

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Season: May 31-Oct. 25

Vendors: 30

Web: yelmfarmersmarket.com

Tenino

Where: Tenino Elementary School, 301 Old Highway 99 N. at Garfield Avenue

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays

Season: June through September

Vendors: 24

Web: teninofarmersmarket.org

Lacey: On hiatus for 2015 while the city reassesses the format and schedule.

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