One of the largest outdoor markets in the region, the Olympia Farmers Market operates on winter hours through Dec. 18 - open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The market may be a little smaller this time of year, but there are still many vendors selling quality, locally raised, grown and crafted products. In operation since 1975, farms that participate in the Olympia Farmers Market are carefully selected to ensure high quality organic produce is what you will find. All produce offered is grown in Washington, so seasonal selections reflect what is truly growing in the field, not what came in on a truck from warmer climates.
More than 20 winter vegetables are grown in Washington, including artichokes, leeks, cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts and winter melons. The sky may be drab, but the booths at the Olympia Farmers Market still burst with color. Expect bins packed full of crazy shaped gourds with curly necks and speckled and stripped patterns, red, white and yellow onions, squash in deep green and pale yellow, potatoes skinned in purple, gold, red, brown and tan and inky purple kale. Wild and cultivated fungi from Provisions Mushroom Farm is sold along with fragrant herbs (both fresh and dried) from a variety of farms.
Besides using the market as a destination for weekly grocery shopping trips, it is also a great place to shop for Christmas and holiday gifts. Booths are filled with handmade art, natural soaps, artisan cheeses from area creameries, jams and jellies, pickled treats and cute-as-pie, one-of-a-kind crafts.
Does the idea of antibiotics and hormones in your meat freak you out? Me too. Stewart's Meat Market solves that problem. Stewart's raise much of the meat it sells and does so humanely - free of unnecessary additives. Lamb, beef, goat, veal, buffalo, chicken and pork are available pre-wrapped and frozen. Non-traditional pepperoni, anyone? Stewart's makes it with ostrich, buffalo, venison, elk and antelope. And don't forget the prize winning beef jerky. Like the other meats, it's sold by the pound - prices vary. Sugar-free alder garlic beef jerky is a personal favorite. You can even get hard to find buffalo jerky. Stewart's Meat Market advises calling the shop in Yelm in advance to place orders for pick-up if you're looking for specific cuts or meats. They'll have it with your name on it for pick-up at the market.
After the holiday season has passed, watch for the black van that brings in great smelling baked goods from Yelm's Stone Ground Bakery to the Proctor District's Winter Market. Who doesn't love a slice of buttered fresh made bread? Selling at the market provides customers a direct buying experience, cutting out the middleman (grocery store). Organic wheat is freshly ground; no preservatives or oils are used creating the breads and other baked products, increasing the healthy factor. Refined sugar is not an ingredient. Instead, honey and molasses supply the sweet component. Specialty round loaves of jalapeno cheese, pumpernickel and onion dill rye ($5) line up next to traditional sliced wheat and white loaves ($4.50) at the farmers market booth. Pumpkin muffins (both with and without chocolate chips), cinnamon rolls, cinnamon bread and cookies will also be sold. Feisty Gals Coffee, an outfit that roasts locally grown beans right in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, won't be at the market this winter. Lack of real estate has put the operation on hold. But cheese makers, honey hawkers, seafood and meat purveyors will be on hand along with winter harvest produce available from area farmers.
The Proctor Market is currently open Saturdays through Dec 17. The Proctor Winter Market begins Jan. 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and runs Saturdays through the end of March when the regular market reconvenes.
Proctor Farmers Market, North 27th & North Proctor St., Tacoma
Olympia Farmers Market, 700 N. Capitol Way, Olympia