Some Ballard Farmers Market Success Stories

Autumn Martin returns today with her Hot Cakes! Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons. In the People's Republic of Ballard, and especially at your Ballard Farmers Market, we know great, local food and drink. So it is no wonder your Ballard Farmers Market has been home to, and indeed a launching pad for, many now very familiar and celebrated names in the local food and beverage industry. And as I continue my personal countdown to retirement from this blog, today I celebrate just a fraction of the extraordinary folks with whom we have shared the street over the years, and the success they have so deservedly achieved.

Like Chef Autumn Martin of Hot Cakes, now with her own storefront just a block up from the Market. Most days, there is a line out the door there to eat her delicious chocolatey creations, but did you know Hot Cakes got its start right here on the street at your Ballard Farmers Market? Yep. We couldn't be more proud of you, Autumn. And just look at all of the press, from all over the world, she's getting!

Veraci Pizza co-owner Marshall Jett being interviewed by Food Network Canada. Photo copyright 2010 by Zachary D. Lyons.

This photo is from 2010, when a camera crew from Food Network Canada arrived at your Ballard Farmers Market to feature Veraci Pizza on their street food show, Eat Street. You probably see Veraci's mobile pizza ovens all of town -- heck, all over the Northwest. Besides their storefront on Market Street, they have a depot on 15th Avenue on Crown Hill will dozens of the trailers. You will also find them in Spokane, in Oregon and in Idaho. But did you know that they got their humble beginnings right here with us many years ago? Back then, they just had one, and then two trailers. Wow. We just love a great success story!

Kimchi, Krauts & more from Firefly Kitchens at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Firefly Kitchens got its start in a shared kitchen space in Frelard in 2010, introducing Seattle to what has now become one of the biggest trends in food: fermentation. They gathered up local veggies from area farmers and allowed them to naturally ferment with delicious and nutritious results. We liked them so much, we directed them to the Good Food Awards in San Francisco in January 2011, and low and behold they won! And they've been winning ever since! And while you can now find their products at finer grocery stores throughout the area, the finest grocery store for them is still right here at your Ballard Farmers Market!

Farhad from Tall Grass Bakery at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Yes, we all still miss us some Farhad, who retired from Tall Grass Bakery last September. So I thought I'd pay homage to him one more time whilst also reminding all y'all that Tall Grass Bakery also got its start with us, way back when your Ballard Farmers Market was wedged into the Fremont Sunday Market at 34th & Fremont, before Fremont was redeveloped and the Market moved to Ballard in 2000. They, too, shared a kitchen with another bakery back in the late 1990s. Now, they make some of the best bread in Seattle out of their storefront on 24th Avenue NW and bring it to you here at your Ballard Farmers Market, as well as other markets and restaurants all over King County.

Market Master Judy Kirkhuff with Nash & Patty Huber of Nash's Organic Produce at Ballard Farmers Market. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

In 2008, American Farmland Trust gave Nash Huber of Nash's Organic Produce in Dungeness their annual, national Steward Of The Land Award. It is just one of many awards Nash has won over the years for the hundreds of acres and many farms he has not only kept in farm production in Clallam County, but that he has rejuvenated, rebuilding the soils, working with the local climate, and developing his own varieties of seeds that would thrive there. The result is a farm that is at its peak of production all winter long while many other local farmers are home reading seed catalogs or vacationing in Mexico. And like Bob Meyer, whom I saluted yesterday, Nash, too, has pioneered organic agriculture in Washington and helped many an up-and-coming farmer along the way!

Don Hilario Alvarez holding hot chile peppers at Alvarez Organic Farms. Copyright Zachary D. Lyons.

Today, it is hard to imagine a farmers market around Seattle in August and September without the dozens of varieties of organic peppers from Mabton's Alvarez Organic Farms (currently prepping their soil for the 2015 growing season!). Don Hilario Alvarez, the farm's patriarch, is a classic American success story -- a true example of an immigrant who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, scrimping, saving and investing, until he became one of the most admired organic farmers in the nation. Way back in 2004, ATTRAnews, the newsletter of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, celebrated him in a feature story in their issue about Latino farmers.

Roger Wechsler of Samish Bay Cheese. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Back in 2010, Seattle was host to the American Cheese Society Awards, and frankly, our Market vendors mopped up the floor with its competition. And the winningest of all of your Ballard Farmers Market's cheese makers was Samish Bay Cheese, taking home four separate awards. Stop by and take a tasting tour on any Sunday right here, and you will understand why!

Janelle & Jerry Stokesberry of Stokesberry Sustainable Farm support I-522. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Ever wonder what makes the Seahawks and the Sounders play so well? We like to believe it is because they eat eggs and chickens from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. Need I say more?

Tacos from Los Chilangos. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Oscar Mendez comes from a family of great Mexican cooks, and our markets are proud to have fostered them. Now, Oscar's Los Chilangos lays claim to being the only mobile taco stand sourcing its animal protein locally. He get it directly from local, sustainable and humane farmers, fishers and ranchers right here at your Ballard Farmers Market. He gets rockfish from Wilson Fish, beef and pork from Olsen Farms, and eggs from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm. Best of all, his food is wonderful!

Brent Charnley, winemaker at Lopez Island Vineyards, hold the new release of his Wave Crest White table wine. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

And I round out this tribute to the achievements of the many vendors we quite frankly consider our family... heck, our children... with neither the last nor the least of our award-winning, storefront opening, international media starring market heroes. This is Brent Charnley from LIV (a.k.a., Lopez Island Vineyards). One of our state's oldest wineries, the fact that it is certified organic makes it even more unique. Rarer still, it is located in the Puget Sound Appellation, Washington's coolest, dampest wine-grape growing region, producing many Germanic varieties of grapes, and a few French, that just simply won't grow elsewhere in Washington. And the list of awards their wines have won over the years is, frankly, almost embarrassing. Stop by for a taste to find out for yourself, and then take a great bottle, or three, home this Sunday!