The Spenard Farmer’s Market celebrated its third annual opening on May 19 in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlies, which has donated the use of its lot to the market for the third year in a row. Under the shadow of the bar’s iconic windmill, Spenardians and other Anchorage residents were able to shop from vendors selling an assortment of handcrafted art pieces, homegrown plants, and local food.
Mark Butler is one of the co-founders of the volunteer-run market.
“This week we are doing a ‘Dash for Trash in Spenard.’ Here’s a button that says ‘I Cleaned Up Spenard,’ which of course is all Spenardian’s dream: to clean up this place.”
“It means to make sure everything’s going okay. To look around the place and make sure that people are happy, that people have what they need. For instance, I just went and dropped two rolls of toilet paper, they were out of toilet paper in the rent-a-can. That’s important. And actually the person going in in-front of me was a Buddhist monk. I’ve never, ever handed toilet paper to a Buddhist monk before. It’s a first. First in the market. Off the life list.
You can see we really enjoy doing this, obviously we’re not doing it for the pay. It’s a labor of love. It’s really great to be involved.”
Volunteers have also found a way for those depending on food assistance programs to enjoy the market and buy fresh, locally grown produce. Kim Wetzel, Food Assitance Chair for the Spenard Farmer’s Market, explains:
“We used a grant from the state department of Health and Social services to purchase a machine that would let us run debit cards, which is important because the Food Stamp Program, the QUEST cards, are transmitted on a debit card. So, with this wireless machine, we can run QUEST cards and give them tokens to use and reimburse the vendors who sell eligible Food Stamp foods. And then for the folks who have debit cards and just want to buy more stuff, we can also use debit cards for wooden tokens; they can buy anything they want.”
The market has attracted a variety of regular vendors. Karen Lowell helps run the Mobile Mending Booth.
“I don’t make a product. If you come and look at most of these places, they’re selling something to by that’s a tangible product. But I’m interested in keeping clothing, textiles of any sort, functional. I know a lot of people have things that they love that they’ve almost worn out, and if you can get, even another six months of wear out of it, that’s what I’m here for. I like fixing and repairing things.
Diana Radoff helps out at the Mobile Mending Booth too, but she also has a micro booth called the Sit and Knit Community Scarf Project.
HA: “After you have your giant scarf, is there a plan for the giant scarf?”
DR: “There is a plan.”
HA: “Is it a secret plan?”
DR: “Yeah. It might be making an appearance this winter, when it’s gray and dark and yucky out.”
The Spenard Farmer’s Market is organized and managed by a variety of volunteers, coordinated by Laura Minski.
“We just want to keep our volunteers happy, and stay with us.”
Kate Powers, one of the regular volunteers, says the market is very encouraging of new ideas, and the low booth prices have made it more accessible to local vendors.
KP: “I think if somebody has an idea for something that they want to do, they should just run with it, and let us know. The Mobile Mending Booth, I mean, she comes here and does alterations and patches clothes and that was just an idea she had and she went for it. There’s a lady making gourmet marshmallows. Kids that are making (youth, pardon me, youth) making necklaces and earrings. You know, I have all these ideas in my head, and if I wasn’t here volunteering…my idea is to have a simple syrup, an herb simple syrup micro booth, you know, have basil and mint. I think that’s something that’s unique. It only costs like five bucks to have a microbooth, so if you have an idea, go for it.”
LM: “Talk to us, say ‘hi,’ tell us what you think, give us feedback.”
KP: “Yeah, we’re very open to feedback.”
LM: “It’s just a very nice way to meet people, talk, hang out for a couple hours, listen to music…it’s fun.”
The Spenard Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until September 29.
Heather Aronno is a Strategic Communications Major at University of Alaska Anchorage. Her passion is community involvement, which has found a place within most of the work and projects with which she is involved. A transplant from the lower 48, Heather has lived in Anchorage, Alaska since the summer of 2005. Fortunately, it was a nice summer, and she's considered Alaska her home ever since.