Gail Cassidy – Kootenai Farmers Market
May 30, 2016
Market Manager Gail Cassidy’s connection to the Kootenai County Farmer’s Market began about 13 years ago when her neighbor Paul Smith (of Killarney Farm) asked her to get involved. Since that time, Gail has been working with community farmers, crafters, and other artisans in the local farmer’s market. She is retiring this year from the market and hopes to continue helping with it as her schedule allows.
The market was established in 1986 and features an array of local products from cheese to chairs, artisan bread to pickles. There is also music, children’s activities, a food court, a community table, a Master Gardeners booth, SNAP, as well as special events. There are two market locations, which runs from early May to mid October. The Saturday market is located in Hayden and the the Wednesday market is in downtown Coeur d’ Alene.
What changes have you seen over the years in the local farmer’s market?
There are more and more farmers and prepared food producers participating in the market. We used to be begging for farmers to participate; now we seem to have a new generation of farmers involved. Also, there has been quite a bit of growth over the last decade of my involvement – we’ve doubled in size to about 100 vendors. About 70 percent of vendors are agricultural and 30 percent are crafters. This year there will be about 50 new day vendors selling items such as pizza, ice cream, coffee, popsicles, smoothies, water kefir, as well as new participating farmers.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Managing all the creative people that participate in the market has been a great challenge, as well as the issue of limited parking for customers.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Being part of the community and helping connect people with healthy food and artisan crafts.
When you aren’t busy farming/doing your work, what kinds of things do you like to do?
I love the coast and we recently purchased a home on the Oregon coast, where I enjoy taking my two dogs for a walk on the beach. I get so much joy from seeing them play in the sand.
What do you envision for the future of the farmer’s market?
More growth and community participation. We have a new program and event this year that I hope will continue to gain momentum. One is the Double Up Bucks Program for EBT participants. The market will offer matching dollars for anyone using food stamps EBT/SNAP cards. SNAP dollars will be matched one to one, up to $20. They swipe their EBT card and receive market tokens to use instead of cash. The program starts in June.
Another addition this year is the Happy Hour Dinner on Tuesday, August 23rd at the Hayden market location. This event is a fundraiser for the Double Up Bucks Program and will feature wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The market offers a membership option to vendors who have participated with us for a few years. Membership means you can vote and that you have a commitment to the market. There are about 65 members currently. Members pay $175 per space for each season, whereas “day vendors” who are not members in the market pay $25 per Wednesday market or $35 per Saturday market.
For more information on the Kootenai County Farmer’s Market, please visit http://kootenaifarmersmarkets.org/