Spring brings assorted good things to Whidbey Island: whales, flowers, evening walks on the beach, and especially the seasonal return of the Saturday Bayview Farmers Market.
Farmers markets are everywhere, with an estimated 7,800 sprinkled around the United States. But this one, four miles southwest of Langley, has a special value for South Whidbey. It’s the place where we celebrate community. We not only stock up on produce, crafty breads and world-class pies; we also listen appreciatively to the little violinists’ progress in their music lessons since last season, and run into friends we maybe haven’t seen for a whole week.
It’s a vastly different experience from any other form of shopping. It’s not really about the goods for sale, but about the people who are growing, making, selling and buying—and continually renewing the relationships among us.
What about the goods? About 50 regular sellers set up every Saturday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning April 26), from produce farmers to jewelry designers. The Lesedi Farm booth sells African meals cooked on the spot with their own produce. Word of Shirlee Read’s pies has spread across the moat to the mainland, and wise Whidbey Islanders know to place their orders in advance so the tourists won’t make a run on the whole stock. The Whidbey Island Writers Association frequently opens a booth with local writers’ books available for signing, and Dan Karvasek’s photography booth, strong on images of Whidbey’s classic barns and wooden boats, shows off the island’s physical allure.
The market isn’t huge, crowded, or bewildering. Transactions are straightforward and honest. Free samples are forthcoming. And friendships are easily started. It’s a deceptively rich aspect of life on Whidbey Island. As the essayist Scott Russell Sanders put it, this is “the richness that comes from letting one’s belongings and commitments be few in number and high in quality.”