What’s New at the Market: Welcome our new market manager

It is an honor to announce that “What’s new at the Market” is our new Market Manager, Eleanor Rose.

We are fortunate to have found this outstanding individual in our midst who has both love and experience with farmers markets as well as experience running a business, which is essentially what the job entails.

She and her family moved to Sequim two years ago to start their own farm, and the manager position fits sweetly into their plan.

Eleanor hails from Southern California, where she grew up near Los Angeles. After high school she went on to University of California Santa Cruz, where she discovered a 25-acre farm and garden. During her freshman year she discovered the garden on the campus and began to help with the weekly harvest.

This led her to doing internships in a children’s garden on campus called The Life Lab. She worked with groups of elementary school kids, bringing them to the garden and teaching them about organic gardening, soil, plants, and habitat. The kids loved it.

“It was a great entry level of information for me on organic farming,” she said.

Eleanor majored in Environmental Science with a focus on Agro-ecology. She chose to do internships on the university farm, also called the Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

I asked if she was surprised to find her love for farming having grown up close to the city, and a smile came over her face. “It didn’t surprise me,” she said, “but it did surprise my parents!”

After graduating in 2006, Eleanor headed to the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems. They offer a six-month apprenticeship program where you get training and experience learning about growing food, the social and political implications of growing food, marketing and running a business.

“Teachers would give courses to us about taxes, budgets, business planning, courses in display,” she said. “It’s been running for over 40 years.”

This is where she met Balyn, now her husband.

I asked if it was her dream to own a farm. Another smile and Eleanor tells me, “It wasn’t clear that I would be the one who was owning the farm. I did dream of creating a livelihood based on growing food and interacting with my community.”

She and Balyn moved to a piece of family property in Sonoma County and started their first farm called Wild Rose Ranch. It began as a small, hand-cultivated CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, a.k.a. weekly share pickup). They thought it would just be a CSA but then were persuaded into going to a farmers market.

As it turned out, the Farmers Market was preferable for them, and the bulk of the income was coming from the farmer market. To create more value to the crops and extend their season, Elli also started a small sauerkraut business and also made jams, chutneys, dried fruit, dried herbal teas.

They were there four years and attended three farmers markets in Sonoma County each week.

As time went on, it became clear that their land arrangement wasn’t going to work long-term. They began searching for employment when a customer shared that he wanted to get his farm project off the ground.

After four years there and Eleanor eight months pregnant, they left their farm and took a job at a nonprofit called Work Horse Organic Farm. They were hired to expand farm production, where there was a small, raised-bed garden. They were asked to expand the property into a row crop farm. The food grown would all be for donation to the community in Santa Rosa, Calif. They did that for four years and at that time they also added produce sales at farmers markets and some value added products which helped to raise awareness about the organization.

After four years at this farm, the finances were a struggle for the nonprofit and it was apparent they couldn’t afford to have employees anymore. So it was time to move again.

They traveled around the Pacific Northwest and came up to Sequim to visit some friends they made at their farm apprenticeship program in Santa Cruz — owners of River Run Farm. They had saved up a nest egg of money and decided to make Sequim home, so they bought a piece of land and built a house.

Now they are starting their own farm, called Joy Farm; 2018 will be their first season in production. They are now putting in perennials and working up a plan.

Moving into the Sequim Farmers Market manager position will allow Elli to develop their farm and work in the community in a productive way. She tells me she looks forward to connecting to the community and promoting community involvement in the market. She has passion for building on the dynamic atmosphere of the local artisans, craftspeople and people who produce food.

Elli says she has spent so much time in the farmers market environment she is aware what a dynamic space it can be and how the community can benefit from it.

Her vision for the market is to create more opportunities for the community to get involved. She will keep the market thriving, as a community market place and is excited to think of ways to vitalize the community and get the local community to the market on Saturdays.

Come meet Elli at either of our Holiday Shows, set for Nov. 18 and Dec. 23 at the Guy Cole Center at Carrie Blake Community Park from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The Food Bank will have a donation-based gift wrapping station at both events to raise money for the holiday meals they give to those in need.