The Community Farmers Market of Chehalis continues to take place Tuesdays on Boistfort Street through the end of October.
But in a couple weeks, the farmers will take a little break to celebrate the market and all that makes it great. The 13th annual Farmers Market dinner will take place Sept. 29 at City Farm in Downtown Chehalis. The dinner is the largest fundraising event of the year for the market, now in its 15th year. Proceeds from the dinner directly support general operations of the market, including programming at the market and the salary for a market manager.
“This gives us the opportunity not only to survive but to thrive and also expand,” said Mokey Skinner, president of the board for the Community Farmers Market of Chehalis. “I think it’s a really great opportunity to celebrate the market and also feel like a part of it. Everybody who comes to the dinner is helping facilitate the market in some way.”
The theme for this year’s harvest dinner is masquerade ball and while diners are strongly encouraged to dress in their finest attire, the theme actually is a nod to the opulent décor of the City Farm building in downtown Chehalis where the event will be held. On Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, the farmers market will host a booth where shoppers can come and make masks for the masquerade ball. Supplies will be provided and shoppers are encouraged to bring their own decorations from home as well to make a truly unique piece of art. Artist Koya Johnson, the 2019 market poster art contest winner, will also be on site at the harvest dinner offering face painting for those who would like a little extra touch for their masquerade look. Skinner added, though, that black tie attire is not required for attendees.
“You can get as dressed up to the nines as you want,” Skinner said. “The theme is just about fun. It’s not meant to be exclusive in any way. You can go as far as you want but we definitely want people to know they can just come as they are.”
Chef Jay Ryan of Hub City Grub in Centralia will create the menu for the event. Ryan not only champions eating local, whole foods, but actually practices it at his restaurant. He first got involved with the harvest dinner about six or seven years ago but is a long-time farmers market shopper.
“It’s the highlight of my week,” Ryan said of the market. “It allows me to connect with farmers I really love and find out what they’re really proud of.”
About 90 percent of the food served at the dinner is typically from vendors from the market or is otherwise locally sourced. Ryan said last year the event was a plated meal, rather than a buffet, which diners seemed to prefer, so he will also be offering a plated meal. Among the items that will be served, Ryan said he is creating a large ravioli filled with green beans, chestnuts and tuna over sautéed collard greens and a fresh sheep cheese sauce.
Ryan noted that when the market dinner first began, the menu was sourced from ingredients that the market vendors donated to the cause. Ryan said now the market vendors are fairly compensated for their ingredients, which may seem like a small detail but is a major accomplishment in Ryan’s eyes. Ryan noted that the point of the harvest dinner is to support the market, which he would personally like to see survive and grow.
“The farmers market is very important to our community,” Ryan said. “If we don’t have the market, we will be in real trouble trying to access good, clean food. This farm dinner is a good opportunity to help people understand why the farmers market is so important and not just to Chehalis and Centralia but globally.”
This year the mixology team at McFilers will also be getting into the act by created botanical cocktails for the event using herbs from farmers market vendors. Skinner pointed out that last year was the first year cocktails were offered at the harvest dinner and diners seemed to enjoy them. Working with McFilers was an easy match because the owners also shop at the market for their Tuesday world tour specials.
“This event is also about creating these wonderful partnerships with downtown business owners,” Skinner said. “We want people to know where you can go to get food that is farm direct.”
The Sept. 29 dinner will also include: live music from the Hook Me Up Band, a part of the Olympic Jazz Senators, a silent auction, raffles and the market poster art contest. There will also be the ever-popular dessert auction where each table competes to collect the most donations from among those sitting there. The table with the most money in their envelope gets first pick of the donated desserts.
“It’s just fun,” Skinner said. “It’s a time to chat with farmers and market customers and people you might see at the market, when everybody is in go-mode, in a really relaxed atmosphere.”