Community, One Market at a Time
June 30, 2004
the increasing popularity of farmers markets in America, suburbanites
and city dwellers alike can purchase farm-fresh produce without setting
foot near a farm. Graduating senior Eden Trenor is counting on this
trend to generate foot traffic in the now-desolate downtown area of
her hometown, Mukilteo, Washington, and to make her newly established
market there a success.
"Mukilteo's businesses lost customers when the strip malls
moved in," Trenor says. "I hope the farmers market will
lure residents back to the city, where they can rediscover local businesses
and reconnect with the community."
Trenor is funding the project with a $40,000 Compton Mentor Fellowship.
Now in its third year, this program promotes the creativity and commitment
of graduating seniors to environmental and social issues, while providing
guidance from a mentor within a similar field.
For Trenor, this guidance will come from Jon Hegeman, founder of Seattle's
now-famous Sunday Fremont Market. Hegeman, who calls himself an "urban
anthropologist," is a passionate proponent of the farmers market
as a community-building tool.
"Aside from the food, farmers markets are about conversations
and rapport, two very important ingredients in the neighborhood diet,"
says Hegeman. "Markets build community because they create relationships
between people who share the same table values. In my experience,
starting a farmers market is one of the most important contributions
an ordinary person can make to revitalize or improve a neighborhood
Mukilteo's market will officially open for business July 22.
In the meantime, Trenor is busy recruiting vendors and spreading the
word about the market. So far, she's gained the support of Mukilteo's
city council and chamber of commerce. She is cautiously optimistic,
but she knows that as the market's manager, she's got a
long row to hoe before the market sees success.
"A good manager makes or breaks the livelihood of so many people,"
Trenor says. "I'm going to have my hands full locating new
vendors, publicizing the market, and dealing with customer service
issues. This is definitely a full-time job."
In addition to these responsibilities, Trenor is organizing a series
of family-friendly activities on Mukilteo market days. With help from
members of a local arts organization, she has scheduled art walks
and outdoor concerts, and she is planning to coordinate even more
activities as the summer goes on.
"If the market doesn't bring people downtown, maybe the
other activities will attract them," Trenor says. "Once
we bring people in, we hope they will realize that there is a whole
city to explore. The project's main objective is to give people
the opportunity to meet other people and to teach them what it means
to be members of an active community."
Trenor plans to stay on as manager of the Mukilteo Farmers Market
for three yearsthe length of time it generally takes to get
a market up and running. After that, she's not sure where she
will go or what she will do. But she's certain that she will
remain active in her community, no matter where she ends up.
"I want young people to look at what I'm doing and realize
that they can do it, too," says Trenor. "They can be community
leaders, and they can lead their community in innovative ways. It
doesn't matter how young they are, they are members of the community,