One of the highlights of the White Salmon City Council meeting on June 6 was a presentation on the White Salmon Farmers’ Market, which will open for the season in Rhinegarten Park on June 19.
This year will be the Farmers’ Market’s seventh year and the second in the city park.
“The goal of the Farmers’ Market is to promote community pride and provide a place for the community to purchase fresh local produce from local vendors,” said Debi Budnick, who made the presentation to the City Council, along with market co-founder Bruce Bolme and Hannah Ladwig of the Gorge Grown Food Network.
The Farmers’ Market has grown exponentially since its beginning in July 2011 and has had to change locations several times to accommodate all of its vendors. A major goal of the market was to make it accessible for low-income families, so in 2016 the vendors began accepting Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards, as well as regular debit and credit cards.
Additionally, a Farmers’ Market sponsor, Gorge Grown Food Network, has initiated a new program called “Veggie Rx.”
“Gorge Grown’s Veggie Rx is a fruit and vegetable prescription program designed to address food insecurity and increase intake of fresh produce. The program empowers health care and social services providers to ‘prescribe’ vouchers to community members who screen positive for food insecurity (hunger). Vouchers can then be used to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets and grocery stores,” according to its website.
Bolme shared an anecdote of watching children receive the vouchers and go to the vendors to practice their haggling skills for their favorite fruits and veggies.
“We want to encourage kids to eat healthily, and its really incredible to see how excited kids get when they get the vouchers and start running around picking out their favorite fruits and veggies,” said Bolme.
The Farmers’ Markets growth has also translated into major growth for the local economy.
“Since its beginning, with the exception of last summer, the market has put thousands of dollars back into the local economy,” said Ladwig.
Due to last summer’s Eagle Creek Fire, the Farmers’ Market did not do as well as in previous years, partly due to the smoke outside deterring visitors to the market, as well as its impact on produce itself.
The Farmers’ Market has also fostered a bit of an old-world charm as well. At a community table staffed by the youth from the White Salmon Youth Center, who receive a cut of the produce, locals can bring produce from their own gardens and baked goods from their kitchens to be sold or bartered at the table.
“The Farmers’ Market provides a place where people can truly connect with their neighbors and community servants can interact with the community in a positive way,” said Budnick.
Part of the reason for the presentation to the council was to request help in promoting the upcoming market as well as ask if improvements/concessions can be made to make the market even better.
The first request was to block off two parking spots where hot food trucks may be able to park their vehicles; the second request was for additional garbage cans to be placed in the park during the market; the third request was to allow for a banner in the park; and the final request was to update the city restrooms.
The WSCC agreed to three of the four requests. In regards to the restrooms, it was said there would need to be a budget set for a “major” spring cleaning of the bathrooms. The City would also need to investigate security measures to prevent vandalism in the bathrooms.
City Clerk/Treasurer Jan Brending advised that the City of Bingen repaints the bathrooms every year prior to the Huckleberry Festival and has attempted multiple times to have soap and paper towel dispensers put up in the bathrooms only to have them torn down by vandals.
“At some point, [Bingen] decided to just put bottles of hand sanitizer in there and include those items and the painting in their budget,” said Brending.
In other business:
Ross Henry, a seven-year resident of White Salmon and local real estate agent, was appointed by Mayor Dave Poucher and approved by council to be on the planning commission. Henry will be taking the spot left vacant by Bill Mason, who resigned in February of this year.
Poucher also informed the council that following the 2018 election in November, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and potentially congressional Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, will be getting involved in the effort to replace the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge.
The council authorized Poucher to sign the professional services contract with W.M. Smith & Associates. The company will come up with three designs for the new community pool per the parameters set in the contract, in addition to a management plan. The City of White Salmon will be paying Smith $25,000 for this design process.
Regarding the Metropolitan Park District (MPD) petition, the council has received, as of June 6, 170 signatures. While it only needs 704 to get the MPD on the ballot, the council has set a goal of 1,000 signatures. There is potential for some signatures to have errors, such as incomplete names and wrong mailing addresses, or the voters are actually not registered.
The City Council also is still seeking volunteers to help with the signature drive. Inquiries should be emailed to Councilor Ashley Post at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The council is exploring the feasibility of charging a vehicle licensing fee and using the money collected from those fees for street improvements. Councilors would need to form a Transportation Benefit District, which can be formed either through a city ordinance or a public vote. Poucher said he is in favor of a public election.
The fees would begin at $20 for two years, then $40 for another two years, and then $50 every two years thereafter, after which any increases would need to be voted on by the public. The council scheduled a special meeting on June 13 to discuss further street improvements.
Archer Mayo and Tao Berman both expressed appreciation and welcome to the return of the clock tower bells during the Springfest parade, but also brought up much-needed improvements.
The iconic clock tower was built in the late 1970s and is coming up on its 40th anniversary. Both Mayo and Berman would like to see the building siding replaced with something more befitting the “Bavarian architecture of the tower.”
According to Poucher, new siding is set to be installed this summer, but he invited Mayo and Berman and city council members to form an aesthetics committee to improve the look of the city.