Building Community Through Food
By Alex Smith
Building Community Through Food
There are many words written on the difference between relational and transactional selling. Transactional selling is focused on short-term gain and making the sale at all costs. Relational selling is focused on the long-term benefit: understanding the customer and their needs, responding to them, and making them want to come back. Farmers markets largely fit into the latter category, and Lynden Farmers Market is a shining example.
Lynden is a very unique area in Western Washington. A small city center contains some shops and restaurants. Churches dot the landscape and the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds sits in the center of it all. Meanwhile, a drive in any direction will lead you to some of the best farmland in all of Washington. The fertile delta where the Fraser River once flowed has accumulated deep topsoil and farmers have noticed.
With large dairy farmers, seed potato and berry growers, and smaller vegetable farmers, the landscape is diverse. Just a few miles takes you from the middle of town into the path of a tractor or a curious cow. This juxtaposition makes it a truly wonderful place for a food lover.
As I arrived at the Lynden Farmers Market on a pleasant, partly sunny day in June, I was immediately greeted by a sense of community. People were chatting on the streets, vendors were laughing with customers, and there was a fun, light atmosphere.
Upon entering the market, I was impressed by the variety. Michael DeGolyer, market treasurer and co-owner of Five Elements Farm, told me that a few vendors were unable to make it this week. Despite their absence, there was a wide selection of everything from fruit and vegetables to meat, textiles, body care products, pottery, photographs, and even hand-crafted knives.
Families strolled from booth to booth, admiring all the local goods. I gawked at the selection of produce, especially the items that I wouldn’t expect to see in mid-June: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and even tomatoes! I was unlucky that I came on a week when Waffles in Paradise was unable to vend. They sell both sweet and savory waffles using ingredients like local honey and local basil from FarmWild.
Beyond the products, though, what stood out to me was the sense of community. In a small town with a tight-knit community, it was amazing to see people coming together to support their neighbors. Small businesses like these need this kind of support and after a year of hardship with Covid, the community is roaring back to lift them up.
The connection to the farmers also provides additional benefits. Eating seasonally is important to many of us, and buying directly from the farmers makes it easy. We don’t need to check labels or seasonality calendars; anything on the farmer’s table is in season. Also, our dollars stay right here in Whatcom County. Everything sold at the market is grown, raised, or produced in the county. So in addition to getting quality goods, we’re doing it while supporting our neighbors at the same time.
I had a chance to speak with Dakota Stranik at Rabble & Roost, her farm near Ferndale. She is the market director for Lynden Farmers Market in addition to her duties as farmer and mother. As we weeded her celery, she talked about her involvement in the market. “It’s been a great way to connect with the Lynden community,” she said. “I’ve met both new customers and farmers just from being there.” She joined the board in 2018 and when the market needed a new director, she was up to the task.
“I wanted to support the market so it could continue to exist,” she continues. “We have come out of Covid stronger than before, and we want to continue to build on that.” The market has indeed been building steadily in the early weeks of 2021, with plenty of customers and a family-friendly atmosphere. Every other week, a musician plays and tips go to Doctors Without Borders. Customers and their children get a chance to learn from vendors. You can practically feel the community coming together.
“It’s about building the relationship with small and beginning business owners,” says Stranik. “It’s more than just buying – you’re engaging and getting to know someone.”
You can visit the Lynden Farmers Market every Saturday from 10-2 and you can even order online for pickup at the market if you’re strapped for time. We hope to see you there!