History

A bit of local history of farmers’ markets –
North Idaho Past/Present
Thank you Nancy Renk for sharing.

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Lois Wythe Remembered

The Farmers’ Market was originally the brainchild of Lois Wythe, then owner of The Peaceable Kingdom. She created and distributed flyers to explore interest in forming a community produce market in March 1988, asking the questions, “Would you like to put your garden to work? Are you interested in having high quality locally grown vegetables available to buy?” She then arranged for a meeting place at the county extension office for those to whom the concept appealed, and was astonished when about sixty people showed up to discuss the formation of a farmers market.

Enthusiastic supporters quickly formed a core group to formulate a basic structure, secure a site, and create an organization. The city agreed to allow the market to occupy Farmin Park during business hours, and within a few weeks the market opened with about ten venders, all offering produce, plants and flowers from their own gardens. The need for a source of fresh organic vegetables and fruits was immediately apparent, as customers arrived to buy from their neighbors and friends.

The market flourished, growing steadily each year. At first, the management of the market was by volunteers; each member was required to shoulder the burden several times a season, which worked well and economically for the fledgling group. However, it created some difficulty for the individual members who found it impossible to sell and manage simultaneously. Thus, after five or six years of growth and expansion, the market members decided to risk hiring a manager to take care of setting up the market each session, collecting fees and commissions, and answering questions from the public. Ellen Weissman took the job, and created her own job description dictated by the needs of market and customers. It was a resounding success. The increase in organization paid off. The Farmers’ Market decided to take another risk, to utilize the gazebo in the park for entertainment during market sessions. The first musicians took their pay in garlic, potatoes and soap, along with applause and appreciation.

The market continued to grow, filling the park with festive sounds and appetizing produce and floral displays. Crafts were introduced, first once a month, then twice… and finally on each market day. Linda Brady was hired as the second market manager. The market prospered, and the musicians were finally paid for their efforts on all Saturdays and even some Wednesdays. The gazebo, which had been only partially roofed, was completed by market members, giving musicians shelter on rainy days.

Today, the Farmers’ Market is an integral part of community life, and an important source of entertainment, family outings, and healthful food, colorful flowers for everyday and special occasions, and as a stop for visitors from all over, offering opportunities to get acquainted with Sandpoint and to purchase items grown or made locally. It has become a well-organized, friendly place. The range of foods available has grown, too, including fresh produce, fruits, homemade cheeses and baked goods, plants of all descriptions, flowers, soaps, baskets, berries grown locally or collected from the wild, and a wide range of high quality craft items.

The market salutes Lois Wythe and her vision,
and all who made the dream a reality for Sandpoint!

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