People go to the Mercer Island Farmers Market because they love the atmosphere and the ability to buy food directly from the people who picked it that morning. It’s the experience manager Lora Liegel works to curate week to week from June through October. Liegel, who has 15 years of experience in the agriculture sector, moved to Kirkland with her wife in 2015 and started working as market manager that January.
When Liegel was in her mid-teens, her mom found her in the backyard trying to graft cuttings onto an apple tree in the hopes that they would grow. After that, her mom connected her with a volunteer position at a seed bank for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that led to a paid position doing research on hops.
Liegel continued in the agriculture industry as a farm manager in California and Portland and as a project coordinator for a crop-management company. The opportunity to be market manager was a serendipitous union of her agriculture background mixed with event management.
“I think what I really enjoy about farmers markets and being part of that again is there’s this big sense of community that sometimes I think I’ve been missing in big cities like Seattle or Kirkland,” she said. “It’s this big event that happens in the community, and the community is so strong.”
Liegel is hoping some aspects of the market can grow, although space is a bit limited. She’d like to see if the market could support additional farmers and if there’s room to grow the brewery and winery sector. The market currently has roughly 45 to 50 vendors offering fresh produce, made-to-order meals, and artisan crafts — two-thirds of the vendors come weekly, and a third rotates in and out. And they’ve invited eight new vendors this year. The market is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is adjacent to Mercerdale Park.
In Liegel’s down time, you can find her outside her Kirkland home gardening tomatoes, zucchini, raspberries, and strawberries, and spending time with her family.
A little playtime with our son, Finnley, before heading off to work.
It’s market day! I wake up, drink some coffee, and pack up the car for my journey from Kirkland to Mercer Island.
I coordinate the closure of the streets to traffic. Meanwhile, the volunteers arrive and set up tables, chairs, and canopies for market shoppers as the vendors start to trickle in.
The market is officially open and people are already filtering in. The market will be in full swing soon.
I do my typical morning walk-through to say hello to vendors, check in, and see what they are selling this week.
I stop to admire some of the great produce that’s in season. These heirloom tomatoes look delicious.
My vendor placement map is full of notes: Fix the sign, add more gravel to wash station area, list a new product, call someone to clean the park bathroom — the list goes on.
I greet our weekly volunteers and thank them for coming. They run the kids’ booth and the information booth, they sort trash, and so much more. There would be no market without them.
After running around all morning, I’m parched. It’s time for lunch and a refreshment. I try to sample a different vendor dish (and drink) each week. This one is a watermelon spritzer from Nibbles.
The market will be closing soon, so I talk to the vendor checkout team and make sure everyone has what they need. Volunteers arrive to help close the market and I oversee the clean up.
I pack up all my equipment and drive back home and arrive to my beautiful family. Later in the evening, we hit the Cross Kirkland Corridor behind my house and go for a stroll.
I check a few emails and my work phone, say a quick goodnight to my garden, and head to bed after a busy day.