Make Visits to the Farmers’ Market Your Regular Food Ritual

Once you’ve tasted an organic carrot, grown with a combination of Inland Northwest soil, sun, and rain, you can never go back to eating store-bought organic carrots. Never. That’s what farmers’ market vegetables will do for you – forever transform your perspective about fresh food.

My family’s affection for farmers’ markets started as newlyweds when we would bike down the South Hill to the Spokane Farmers’ Market at its old location in the church parking lot off Second Avenue. We’d load up our panniers and backpacks with vegetables and fruit and come back later with our Subaru Outback if needed to pick up plant starts and bags of potatoes.

Eventually, we became a CSA (community-supported agriculture) family through Tolstoy Farms ( Our firstborn was only a few months old when we picked up our very first half-bushel box of organic produce from Tolstoy Farm’s vendor booth – the market by then located on Fifth Avenue between Division and Browne.

Two children sitting down and eating fresh peaches at a local farmers market.
Photo: Shallan Knowles

By the fall, when we were approaching the end of market season, I was baking and pureeing carrots for homemade baby food and freezing in cubed trays for the not-so-distant future when my son would be eating solid food.

Our days of biking to the market are on hiatus for now; biking to and from the market while towing two kids and then also a heavy box of food is a bit too Ironman-ish for us. Our weekly (or even twice-weekly) visits to the market are akin to our Sabbath. It’s a ritual that nourishes our bodies and souls. Every farmers’ market has this same vibe – a warm, welcoming community of farmers and families.

Personally handing my cash to the hands of the one who toiled the soil and harvested the food or cared for the honeycombs or baked the bread provides an emotional, visceral connection.

My children and I adore the market and the farmers. We adore “Farmer Joe” from Tolstoy who greets us every Wednesday during summer market when we pick up our box. And it’s not just because Joe is friendly and looks like a farmer-hippie version of actor Keanu Reeves. Joe is a real farmer; he is the story behind our food. My children started eating raw green beans, snap peas, carrots with the green tops still attached (so they could eat like bunnies), beets, and turnips because they were from Farmer Joe, not because Mommy asked them to.

Joaquin Marelli, from Newport, Washington, sells the mushrooms he grows, at the Spokane Farmers' Market. Joaquin was looking forward to running the Kaniksu 50 Ultra at the end of June in under 8 hours. Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree
Joaquin Marelli, from Newport, Washington, sells the mushrooms he grows, at the Spokane Farmers’ Market. // Photo: Shallan Knowles

Now, our fourth summer as a Tolstoy CSA family, our life would feel incomplete without the Spokane Farmers’ Market. All winter long, whenever we drove down Division and past the market location, my children would ask, “When is the market going to open?”

A thousand memories come from our market experiences – like when my son, last summer, touched his finger to a patch of dirt and asked, “Is this the Earth?”

Or receiving honey sticks from Wild-n-Sweet Rich Honey. Eating bread samples from Arabesque Farms & Bakery and buying our favorite to make sandwiches for lunch that day, along with a cinnamon roll and huckleberry Danish to eat right away. Sitting on the grass to enjoy the live music, my children clapping and dancing along. Taking home fruit from Pacific Produce every time.

Now whenever we go on vacation, we find the local farmers’ market wherever we’re going and plan our trip agenda and meals around it.

Why not make farmers’ markets part of your family’s story?

Tomato plants, herbs and flowers available for gardening. Photo: Amy Silbernagel McCaffree
Tomato plants, herbs and flowers available for gardening. // Photo: Shallan Knowles

Guide to Inland Northwest Farmers’ Markets (2014)

Never miss a market; download the Farm Stand app:

Spokane County

North Idaho

Around the Inland NW

British Columbia

Originally published in the July 2014 issue.

Visit the OTO archives for more stories about farmers’ markets.

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