Photo courtesy Shane Clyburn: While he won’t necessarily be holding half a wheel of gouda, Shane Clyburn, the new manager of the Magnolia Farmers Market, will be on hand for all the market days, which run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 6 through Oct. 24. at the market, 33rd Avenue West and West McGraw Street.
Photo courtesy Shane Clyburn: While he won’t necessarily be holding half a wheel of gouda, Shane Clyburn, the new manager of the Magnolia Farmers Market, will be on hand for all the market days, which run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 6 through Oct. 24. at the market, 33rd Avenue West and West McGraw Street.

Shane Clyburn has not had the easiest introduction to the farmers market scene since returning to Seattle after living in Boston for five years.

Clyburn is the new manager for the Magnolia Farmers Market and also does scheduling for all the seven markets in the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market organization. He joined in March right before the shutdowns happened, and a lot has been uncertain since then. Of the seven markets, the University District market returned a couple of weeks ago, and the West Seattle Farmers Market returned this past Sunday.

And while he does not know what the Magnolia Farmers Market will look like yet, it will open on schedule June 6 and run Saturdays until Oct. 24 in Magnolia Village.

Clyburn said Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market staff have modified operations at the markets “pretty significantly,” adding Magnolia’s market will follow state and city guidelines before opening.

“We’re preparing for things to be as they are now but also planning on how to work back to a normal market,” Clyburn said. “Safety is our first priority.”

Unless the restrictions are eased in the city and state by the first Saturday in June, Magnolia Farmers Market will likely feature many of the same imposed at the U District market, which is serving as a model for the others. Clyburn said, as things stand, the Magnolia market might have controlled entry, a capacity of shoppers, a limited number of vendors, no sampling or food truck vendors and all entertainment postponed. While nice, Clyburn described things like food truck vendors and entertainment, part of the culture of a farmers market but not necessary to its mission.

“It’s not an essential part of what we do,” Clyburn said. “What we’ve done in the face of COVID-19 is sort of focus on the core aspect of a farmers market.”

That means supporting farms and farmers, some of whom rely on the markets for all their sales, as well as providing an outlet for consumers who want healthy and locally grown produce and proteins, Clyburn said.

“We’re focusing on the farmers market as an outdoor grocery store,” he said. “In many ways, we believe the farmers markets offer a level of safety that the grocery stores can’t provide.”

It is almost guaranteed, Magnolia’s market will open with fewer vendors, Clyburn said. The market feature 52 slots open and 45 vendors on any given week.

Clyburn said organizers are aiming for 26 vendors, but the decision is ultimately the city’s. He said, in the U District, organizers asked for half the number and the city reduced the number even more.

“So the goal is 25 to 26 vendors for opening day,” Clyburn said. “If I can get any more, it’s basically we will fit as many vendors as the city will allow.”

Although the Magnolia vendors have been scheduled for some time, he is currently looking through the list and determining which are allowed under current safety guidelines.

“It’s really difficult,” Clyburn said. “We want to prioritize the farmers as much as possible, but we want to promote the really excellent food that’s made in and around Seattle.”

The farms are almost guaranteed a spot, as they are the focus, while vendors selling food they process, such as cured meats, will likely be put on a rotational basis.

Clyburn said farmers market organizers have tried to find novel ways to support vendors — mostly by connecting them with their supporters and other people in the community and promoting those vendors to customers, which will continue into the season.

“We’ll have to makes some tough calls on who is in the market itself but also do what we can to support them,” he said.

Unfortunately, food vendors selling items they prepare in their trucks are likely to be the last to be brought back, Clyburn said. Flower vendors, which have been excluded from the farmers markets this year, are likely to be brought back before some other processed food ones.

“It makes us sick to our stomach that we can’t include them because they’re a core part of the farming community,” Clyburn said, adding he expects restrictions on flower vendors to be lifted soon and for them to be present on Magnolia’s opening day in June.

Clyburn said he has been at both of the farmers markets in the U District since it has reopened.

“I’d say it is going remarkably well,” he said.

Even though nobody is happy with the current situation, Clyburn said vendors are reporting business at or even above what it was at this time last year.

“With the limitations on the number of shoppers and the wait because of capacity, almost everyone going to the market is there to buy,” Clyburn said.

The first week back, people were waiting roughly a half an hour to get in.

“If you’re dedicated enough to wait 20 to 30 minutes to get in, you’re committed to buy,” he said.

Clyburn said instead of spending $10 to $20 at a vendor, customers are spending maybe $30 to $40 but buying more than they normally would.

For a list of vendors who will be at the Magnolia Farmers Market on opening day, residents should check out the farmers market website in early June.