If the city builds it, they will come.
At least, that is the hope of planners of the Lakewood Farmers Market, which will open July 10 and run for eight weeks on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The market will be operated as a pilot project this year to determine interest by farmers, vendors and local consumers. It is slated to run between July and August, but may extend into September if there is enough traffic to do so.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Mary Dodsworth, Parks and Recreation director for the City of Lakewood. “We have big things coming up, and it’s exciting. It’s been hard around here because there’s so much work to do, but we have had these ideas for a long, long time, and all the stars lined up.”
The market’s purpose is to create a sense of community and a place to gather while bringing people to Lakewood, celebrating and highlighting the city’s uniqueness and providing healthy options for residents.
The idea has support from high levels; City Councilman Jason Whalen said in February that the market should happen “sooner than later.”
"I'm a huge fan for that cool development and redefinition of what it means to have a sense of place in Lakewood, specifically the Towne Center," he said.
While Lakewood had a farmers market as recently as 2001 – and holds a one-day event during Summerfest – the closest weekly one is now in Steilacoom. That market opens in June.
“It seemed to be somewhat successful, but it was pre-Lakewood Towne Center,” Dodsworth said of the previous effort in Lakewood.
In recent years, she added, calls would come in from people expressing interest in a farmers market.
“I’d say ‘Yes, it would be fabulous, and here is what we need to do: a leadership team to help us with logistics, details, that we want it to be a diverse group’ … and they usually would say, ‘Well, I just wanted to buy lettuce.’ ”
So what changed?
“About once a year, we have thrown out the net to see if anyone was interested,” Dodsworth said, “and when we did in January, more than 20 people showed up. It’s been a revolving troop.”
Among those on the committee are business owners, those with expertise about how farmers markets work and what one must do to be a vendor, community service clubs and market enthusiasts. The city is overseeing the project, but Dodsworth said that if the pilot project is successful, it could create an independent farmers market association.
“First, we need to know: Do we have vendors that want to come?” she said. “Do we have customers who want to come?”
Dodsworth said prices will be set and the vendor application should be ready this week. They plan to have 30 vendors this summer – 50 percent farm, 20 percent processors (jams, jellies, pies, dog treats), 20 percent handcrafted items and 10 percent groups (nonprofits, entertainers).
The market will be held on the paved plaza area and around the fountain in front of City Hall, with a little spillover near the side parking between the building and USA Discounters. Under this plan, Dodsworth said, the city would not have to close any roads or limit access into Lakewood Towne Center or City Hall.
“I’m excited that I can come down during lunch and get some pretty flowers and fresh produce and try new things,” Dodsworth said. “And we’re bringing people to City Hall. A lot of people don’t come here because they don’t have a planning issue or need to go to court, so this is a great way to come and see what a great area we have over here.”
Dodsworth said it will cost $5,000 to run the market for the season. Costs include staffing, signage, equipment and marketing.
Those interested in having a booth at the farmers market should call 253-983-7887.