Vendors at market offer welcoming community for all

Kate Erikson

Many types of cultural foods are given to those who are interested. Jacky Chen | The Falcon

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, the stretch of cobblestone reaching from Ballard Avenue NW to Vernon Place and 22nd Avenue is filled with thousands of people. With over 200 participating local farmers, food vendors and restaurants, the Ballard Farmers Market always has something new to offer.

Not only is the Ballard Farmers Market a place to find fresh produce, it is a hive of passionate vendors from all walks of life.

“I love working for the Seattle Farmers Market Association because I get to see so many new and old faces every week,” said employee Kelli Diann Billip. “We are constantly trying to get new local vendors that will spark interest to our customers.”

Although the Ballard Farmers Market occurs every Sunday, throughout the week those who work at the SFMA put in countless hours to make it happen.

Billip shared that she, along with the other staff members, contact possible vendors and work with Seattle police to create programs to get low income locals fresh produce. They work with the city to make the market happen.

SFMA manages not only the Ballard Farmers Market, but also the markets in Wallingford and Madrona. For almost five years, Billip has been working full time for SFMA and although she never expected to work for a farmers market as her career, she loves it.

Through a program called Fresh Bucks, SFMA has been able to give those of all incomes access to fresh produce. All markets managed by SFMA accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) credits, formally known as food stamps.

Cultured mushrooms from Sno Valley prove to be a popular purchase from the customers at the market. Jacky Chen | The Falcon

After someone swipes their SNAP card, they are given tokens to use with any vendor that sells produce. Fresh Bucks matches credits dollar per dollar and is for fruit and vegetable purchases only.

“I started volunteering with the Seattle Farmers Market Association a few years ago before they offered me to work for them, now I work full time and although I never thought my full time job would be working for a farmers market, I really love it,” said Billip.

When she was young, Billip worked for her grandfather at her local farmers market in Virginia. After college she moved to Seattle and eventually got a job with SFMA.

“Most of the work goes on behind the scenes, although I am out here all day Sunday, the majority of my work is in an office,” said Billip. “But if I wasn’t working in an office, I wouldn’t be able to do the rewarding work I do such as bringing fresh produce to the community or supporting local business at the same time.”

Although fruits and vegetables are abundant at the market, it is far from the only offering, with many stalls offering various crafts for sale.

For over 10 years Radi Starup has been selling her pottery at the market.

Starup has loved art her whole life and has been making pottery since her late teens. Before the market, cleaning houses was her main source of income. However, as she got older so did her clients, and it became tougher to make ends meet — this was until she started selling at the market.

Now, at 70 years old, Starup’s main source of income is selling her pottery at the Ballard Farmers Market. She fires her kiln about twice a week and once a week she sells at the market. Not only has the market provided her with a source of income, it has also allowed her to do the thing she loves every day.

“I never thought making pottery would be my full time job, but here I am 10 years later,” Starup said. “Being from Ballard, it has been amazing to see the market and the community surrounding it grow.”

The Ballard Farmer’s Market is open on Sundays. Jacky Chen | The Falcon

James Wade is one of many to enjoy the community that the Ballard Famer’s market cultivates.

Wade was born in New York City, but he came to Seattle over 20 years ago. Wade comes to the market every Sunday to sell Real Change newspapers.

Although he enjoys the food, the main reason why he comes is the people. Wade loves to sing up and down the cobblestone streets and talk to his new and old friends.

“I love the people here man, and they love me,” said Wade. “I have been going to this market for years now just to see the friendly faces.”

The farmers market creates a place for everyone, that’s what Wade loves about it. Wade agrees that the food is great, but more importantly, there is a positive energy that radiates the space.

If the weather permits, Wade is there and he loves to be there.

While speaking with him, Wade greeted countless people, many who seemed to know him. Wade likes that he is accepted in this space, no one tries to run him off his stoop or tell him to stop singing, they let him be himself. Wade encourages everyone to attend the market, and if they hear him singing to stop by, chat with him and buy a paper.

“I don’t come here to eat food, the food is good but oh boy, these people here are better,” said Wade. “There are so many lovely people and I am so glad God has blessed me to be here and meet all of them.”