"We are one of the few local farms that has it all," says James Rowley, farmer and owner of Spring Water Farm.
Rowley isn't exaggerating. At Rowley's booth, one finds large ice chests filled with pre-packaged cuts from grass-fed beef and pork and free-range chicken. Cage-free eggs are available year-round, while turkeys are slaughtered for purchase near Thanksgiving. Rowley's farm also grows a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that begin trickling in to market beginning in late June and early July, rounding out the farm's bounty.
Rowley, a former house builder who grew up on a small farm, began considering farming as a full-time livelihood after the economic downturn and housing crisis of the late aughts. By 2007, Rowley was working with the Spokane Farmers' Market to sell his provisions.
Located in Deer Park by Horseshoe Lake, Spring Water Farm is a family affair. Rowley and his wife vend at farmers markets in the summer and do off-the-farm and direct farm sales year-round.
Spring Water Farms also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), offering weekly boxes of seasonal produce to members. Whole sides of beef and pork also are available for purchase, and a Spring Water Farm cookbook is in the works.
Before trucks, trains and airplanes started transporting food to us from all areas of the world, it was the norm to eat produce grown only a small distance awa
"It used to be that all the food people ate was local and seasonal because we didn't have the interstate highway system or refrigerated railroad cars," says Karen Kinney, executive director of the Washington State Farmers Market Association.
Kinney recalls growing up near her grandparents' farm, seeing farmers with their own stands or selling directly to little local food stores. Over the past 30 years or so, an increasing number of farmers have come together to sell at farmers markets as we know them today — tents and tables lined up in streets or parking lots.
The WSFMA began in 1979 with four farmers markets; the organization now has 112 member markets and counts about 160 total in the state, says Kinney. Nationwide, the USDA's National Farmers Market Directory lists more than 8,100 markets, up from about 5,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The structure of markets tends to vary. Many are nonprofits, but some are owner-operator private businesses. Others are sponsored and run by local governments.