New vendors greet neighbors at expanded Queen Anne Farmers Market

Just a few hours before the season opening of the Queen Anne Farmers Market, heavy rain drenched volunteers as they struggled to set up. “It was a torrential downpour,” explained Maria College, co-founder of QAFM. “My hair was flat. It looked like I was in a pool.”

But just as the market opened, the rain stopped, and neighbors began to walk along the expanded rows of vendors on West Crockett Street. Local farmers offered a wider selection of fresh produce, meat and cheese, including new additions like Vicki Brown’s “The Little Brown Farm” from Whidbey Island.

“She makes amazing goat cheese. She’s getting popular around the country,” said College. In the same booth, Useless Bay Wines — also from Whidbey Island — had some recommendations for wine and cheese pairings.

Over at the chef’s tent, chef Seth Caswell of Emmer and Rye demonstrated how cook up some great seasonal dishes sourced straight from market vendors.

Popular food artisans like Veraci and Grateful Bread (back this season after a one-year absence) mixed among food trucks like Where Ya At Matt and Maximus/Minimus. Musicians Red Dog (below) and Vince Martinez and friends entertained market-goers from two tents.

Market organizers were able to squeeze more vendors in more places, using the same footprint along Crockett and behind Queen Anne Ave — and they’re nearly at maximum capacity for the space.

“It looks to me like it did mid-season last year, on our first day. So I think it’s looking really full and great right away,” College said, adding that more press about the market this year may attract more people from outside the neighborhood. “I think it’s a great opening day,” she said. “Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I think this is the best one.”

The market runs every Thursday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. from June 7 to October 11.

Queen Anne Farmers Market kicks off today

The newly-expanded Queen Anne Farmers Market is back for the season, opening this afternoon (Thursday) at 3 p.m. at the same location of Queen Anne Avenue and West Crockett Street. This year, the market is growing from 32 to 50 vendors (here’s the list) with more local farmers, food artisans and wineries along an expanded produce row.

There are also several events planned for the day. Beginning at 3 and running until 5 p.m., kids are invited to plant their own peas and sunflower plants and see the different stages of growing from seeds already planted. They can bring the plant back in 2 weeks and see who’s has grown the most.

At 5 p.m., the 3-piece string band Red Dog will begin playing. Then at 5:30 p.m., Chef Seth Caswell of Emmer and Rye will be cooking up some of his favorites in the chef tent. And for the entire duration of the market — until 7:30 p.m. — Vince Martinez and the Great Blue Yonder will be entertaining the crowd.

“The growth in our vendor roster is in response to customer feedback that tells us they really enjoy the market but want even greater diversity and number of vendors,” Maria College, co-founder of QAFM told us back in May. “We’ve worked hard to ensure that we maintain the same high quality while providing some new fresh food options.”

Come on out and support great local businesses! We’ll be there, and we’ll post photos later this evening.

Rock sculptures going up at Counterbalance

Contractors working with Uptown Alliance and Seattle Parks and Recreation have begun installing five stones in Counterbalance park, the outcome of a controversial decision to add the rock sculptures. Work begins today (Monday) to install two sculptured basalt columns and three basalt sitting stones, and Seattle Parks expects the project will take two weeks to complete.

Two areas have been fenced off to prepare for the installation.

Some neighbors objected over worries the addition will spoil the minimalist artistic integrity of the park. Seattle Parks agreed with Uptown Alliance, and the city gave the project the green light last month.

Community garden UpGarden opens on roof of Mercer parking garage

The first large-scale rooftop community garden in the country, the UpGarden P-Patch officially opened over the weekend in Lower Queen Anne/Uptown. Located at the eastern half of the upper level of the Mercer parking garage, UpGarden is a huge project — nearly the size of six basketball courts. The city funded the project through the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy.

“At the P-Patch Program we’re always looking for creative ways to work with community members to make community gardening available in their neighborhoods,” says Laura Raymond of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. “With the realization that the most open space to be found was on rooftops, we decided to pursue the idea. Seattle Center was approached and welcomed the new addition.”

Volunteers have been working on the P-Patch since late last year, bringing in tons of dirt, chips and wood to create 110 new vegetable garden plots. “Giving gardens” will be set aside to grow vegetables for local food banks and feeding programs. Future plans include a mural, beehives, bird houses, tables, benches and a community kiosk.

“I, like many, began this journey just wanting a plot for growing some vegetables. I did not realize the extent of what was required to bring a P-Patch to life in such a short time,” said Craig Moore, coordinator of the core group of volunteers. “The process has brought me closer to a group of neighbors that I now share a sense of pride and ownership in our creation.”

The garden even includes an Airstream trailer — used as a toolshed — and a 1963 Ford Galaxie that’s been converted into a planting bed. Interestingly, volunteers had to be careful to adhere to weight limits: garden plots are limited to 12” to 18” high with potting soil, lighter than top soil.

If you’re interested in getting a plot, UpGarden is beginning the first stages of allocation. Neighbors, families and teams that have invested volunteer hours will get priority. More details here.