Whidbey markets offer excellent local shopping options

— Created May 18, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

‘Tis the season – market season that is – and Whidbey Island is home to a number of farmers markets to make shopping local very simple, indeed. But several Whidbey markets offer expanded selections that add even more to the mix.

When one thinks of “market season,” fresh produce grown by local farmers automatically springs to mind, and there are good reasons for that, say market managers and owners.

“I find people like to know where their food comes from as well as knowing they are supporting their local economy,” said Shannon Hamilton, owner of Whidbey Farm and Market, on Monroe Landing Road in Oak Harbor.

“You know more of what exactly you are getting,” agreed Kirstin Clauson, manager of South Whidbey Tilth Market. “You can better trust the people in your local community to be ethically producing the goods you are buying. There is interesting stuff to be found. It’s fun and pleasant to be outside and shop and know that your dollars are going back into your own locale.”

Farmers markets on Whidbey run from one end to the other. On the south end, there is the South Whidbey Tilth Market and Bayview Farmers Market. Central Whidbey offers the Coupeville Farmers Market and North Whidbey offers Whidbey Farm and Market across from the drive-in theater, the Whidbey Island Farmers Market at Windjammer Park and The Farm Stand just north of Oak Harbor. All offer in-season produce and balance that with other locally produced products.

The season is early still, but already shoppers can find plant starts, hanging baskets and micro greens at Whidbey Farm and Market. As the season progresses, Hamilton said there will be “locally grown produce, berries, fruit from eastern Washington, more vendors arriving all the time, a coffee stand and live music.”

On South Whidbey the Tilth market already has spinach, arugula, radishes, turnips, kale, chard, bok choy, green onions, honey, eggs and plant starts, with plenty of items still to come, according to Clauson.

“[We’ll have] just about everything!” she said. “Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, leeks, onions, potatoes, garlic…think of it and, given it’s for our climate, it’ll probably be arriving. Blackberry Moon brings hot-weather crops from Eastern Washington like peaches, nectarines, cherries and also wild Alaskan fish and cheeses.

“On a typical market day, people can find organic local produce, honey, eggs, artisan baked goods and bread, hot concessions, flowers, body care products, knife-sharpening services, and many artists and craftspeople,” Clauson continued. “The experience is a beautiful pastoral setting on a grassy knoll with trees, gardens, and forest surrounding. It’s a safe place for kids to play in the sandbox or cob playhouse. Music is usually playing from the market stage. And often we have fun food, gardening or sustainability demos.”

If one is looking for locally-raised protein, 3 Sisters Market in Coupeville carries 3 Sisters beef, pork, lamb and chicken, in addition to products from other local and nearby producers.

“We started off selling our local beef at farmers markets, which grew into an everyday demand,” said Roshel Donwen, owner and manager of 3 Sisters Market, which is open year ’round. “Our vision always included selling local products and we have really stayed true to selling products that are as close to home as possible. 

“Shopping and supporting local has really become a desired activity,” she continued. “People see the impact they are making when supporting and shopping local. When shopping at 3 Sisters Market, when making a purchase, you are supporting a local business and keeping our microlocal community moving forward. Knowing where your food comes from is something customers are becoming more aware of and knowing where the produce is grown or how your meat is raised is important.” 

It’s not just about shopping locally, although that is the over-arching point of local markets. It’s also about community, and the experience shoppers have while there.

“I love that we are community-based and how it has brought so many people together,” Hamilton said. “We have welcomed artists of all kinds, from face painters, singers, authors, woodcrafters, farmers, food vendors and so many different kinds of crafters. I love that people come with their family and friends and stay, hangout, let their kids play, or sit and enjoy the fields and garden while enjoying an ice cream cone or a coffee.”

“[People] come for delicious food, a really nice place to picnic and hang out, awesome organic fruits and veggies, and other interesting arts and crafts,” said Clauson. “We are very family-friendly. Music is scheduled almost every market with talented musicians, so it’s basically like a free concert every week! South Whidbey Tilth Association is a volunteer-run, educational nonprofit, the purpose of which is to support and promote biologically sound and socially equitable sustainable agriculture. Anyone can become a member. We love volunteers and can always use help setting up or breaking down if anyone is interested in joining the market scene.”

A flea market held the last Saturday of the month at Greenbank Farm is looking for all kinds of different local vendors, adding to the variety of offerings one can find on Whidbey. And like nearly everything else on Whidbey, this flea market aims to be unique.

“Many other markets, especially large and permanent ones, have a regular list of vendors that vend at flea markets for a living, and may tour around from city to city,” said Tammy Murphy, owner of Whidbey Island Markets. “We don’t get people like that – this is a truly local flea market, where you never know what you’re going to find from month to month. It could be someone’s birdhouses they make at home, or people cleaning out their garage, or a Scentsy dealer, or someone trying out new recipes. We literally never know. There are a few guidelines on what you cannot bring, but after that, the sky’s the limit! I think that makes our market a bit more fun to attend. Besides, you know you’re shopping from locals.”

Murphy said she thinks people appreciate the treasure-hunting aspect of the flea market, as well as saving money, but said the feeling of community helps make it a winning activity.

“There’s something very appealing about knowing who your money is going to, and having a face to it, a human connection,” she said. “People around here like helping out our neighbors, whether it’s a vendor turning things they don’t need, but you do, into cash, or it’s a shopper who needed that one thing and it turns out you’ve got it for them! It’s just a happier experience all around. For another thing, especially for used items like you find at a flea market, there’s a satisfaction in reducing/reusing/recycling.”

Many of the local farmers markets also accept SNAP and FMNP (Farmers Market Nutrition Program), making it easier for people of all income levels to shop for fresh, local food.

Bear in mind there will be many independent farm stands sprouting up as the growing season deepens, and if one is pressed for time, the Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative’s Food Hub is another option for purchasing local produce and products online for pickup.

The variety of options available on Whidbey is truly impressive. Perhaps planning an outing to one or more of them could prove to be a satisfying excursion.

“We love what we do and would not be able to do it without our amazing community,” summed up Donwen. “We are very thankful for our customers and appreciate everyone’s support.” 

Local Markets Abound on Whidbey!

Bayview Farmers Market
Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
5642 Bayview Rd., Langley

Coupeville Farmers Market
Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
On the green by the library, Coupeville

The Farm Stand
April – October
Daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
36699 SR 20, Oak Harbor

Whidbey Island Farmers Market
Sundays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
1600 SW Beeksma (Windjammer Park), Oak Harbor

South Whidbey Tilth Market
Sundays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
2812 Thompson Rd., Langley

Three Sisters Market
Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
779 N Holbrook Rd., Coupeville

Whidbey Farm & Market
Thursday – Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
1422 Monroe Landing Rd., Oak Harbor

Whidbey Island Flea Market
Last Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Greenbank Farm, 765 Wonn Rod., Greenbank

Whidbey Island Grown Food Hub
Order online
Pickup on Fridays, 4-6 p.m.
Elks Lodge, 155 N Ernst St., Oak Harbor
Sherman’s Pioneer Farm, 46 S Ebey Rd., Coupeville
Mutiny Bay Farm Stand, 5486 Cameron Rd., Freeland