Like tomatoes ripening on the vine, farmers markets in the Mid-Columbia are opening one by one, with markets in Moses Lake and Walla Walla already open.
Markets in Pasco, Prosser and Ephrata will open Saturday. Others will follow soon as the weather warms and more crops come to harvest.
Farmers markets aren't all about herbs, fruits and veggies. For instance, you can find freshly swirled smoothies at the Maui Juice Co. booth, along with freshly baked mini donuts. If Lee Coepel of Connell isn't on the road driving a load of wood chips to Canada, he will be at the market standing under his Steak on a Stick sign.
"He marinates beef and pork strips, puts them on skewers and grills them right at the market," said Mike Somerville, Pasco Farmers Market manager. "They smell fantastic and taste even better," he said.
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Somerville and the other market managers say the baked goods, cheeses, spice and salsa mixes and other foods are a big draw for the markets.
"People like to come, do some of their grocery shopping and enjoy a bite to eat while they visit with friends and the market vendors," Somerville said.
Many of the market managers expect the selection of fresh produce to be limited in early weeks.
"It's just been too cold," said Jordawn Wambeke, manager of Hermiston's Own Saturday Market. She will be opening June 5.
But you won't go home empty-handed even this early in the year.
One vendor at the Pasco and Kennewick markets will have plenty to sell. At Happy Lil' Homestead in Kennewick, owned by Ryan and Chera Antos, the free-range hens are busy laying eggs. At the height of the laying season the couple bring up to 60 dozen eggs to market, selling them for $4 a box.
"I rarely leave with any," Ryan Antos said. He also sells cuts of pork and this year will add boiler chickens. He also sells turkeys at Thanksgiving.
Sylvia Albertin of Kennewick also is looking forward to the markets' opening. She's been selling cherries, apples, peaches, nectarines, rhubarb and raspberries at the Pasco market for 20-plus years.
She said the markets are a good marketing tool. "I can get retail prices and I can always take my freshest produce because I don't have to pick it all at once. Instead I can pick it when it's ripe and take it to the market."
Buying at the various farmers markets isn't just good for shoppers who get fresh food. "It helps support the local economy and your local farmers too," Albertin said.
-- Pasco Pasco Farmers Market will run from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays beginning Saturday through Oct. 29. The market is at South Fourth Avenue & West Columbia Street.
For more information or to sign up, call Mike Somer-ville, market manager, 531-7274 or the Pasco Downtown Development Asso- ciation, 545-0738. Or go to pascofarmers market.org. The market also is on Facebook.
-- Kennewick Southridge Farmers Market will run from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays from June 2 through Oct. 27 in South-ridge Village, Kennewick, at Highway 395 and Hildebrand Street.
For more information or to sign up, call 528-4592. The market also is on Facebook.
-- Benton City Benton City Community Market will open June 1 or 15 depending on the weather. The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays in the city's business district.
The market is a project of the Benton City Economic Development Council.
For more information or to sign up, call Randy Rutledge, development council coordinator and market manager, 947-7332. Or email bcedc@bentonrea. com.
-- Walla Walla Walla Walla Farmers Market runs May 1 through Oct. 30 and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Fourth Avenue and Main Street at city hall.
For more information or to sign up, contact market manager Beth-Aimee McGuire at 520-3647, email info@gowallawallafarmers market.com or go to gowallawallafarmersmarket.com. The market also is on Facebook.
-- Prosser Prosser Farmers' Market opened Saturday and runs through October. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in Prosser City Park on Sommers Avenue.
For more information or to sign up, call market manager Linda Hall at 786-9174. Or go to prosserfarmersmarket.com. The market also is on Facebook.
-- Richland Richland's farmers market, The Market at The Parkway, will run from June 3 through Oct. 14. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays on The Parkway between George Washington Way and Jadwin Avenue.
For more information or to sign up, call market manager Kathy Hanson, 539-7229 or coordinators John or Tara Erben, 967-2587. Or go to marketattheparkway.com.
-- Hermiston Hermiston's Own Saturday Market runs June 4 through October, depending on weather. The market is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays at the Conference Center, 415 S. Highway 395 (next to Tom Denchel Ford Country).
For more information or to sign up, call the market manager Jordawn Wambeke 541-314-3751. The market also is on Facebook.
-- Umatilla Umatilla Farmers Market runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays from June 2 through Sept. 29 at Village Square Park, 306 Sixth St.
For more information, call market manager Mike Mathis-sen at 541-561-0731 or email mike@mcommunity garden.com. The market also is on Facebook.