Bar Ferd’nand owner Matt Dillon is connecting people to small farmers inside the Chophouse Row courtyard in Capitol Hill, but says he’s not looking to create a new farmers market to compete with the many that already exist in Seattle.
“It’s mostly about small businesses, trying to create an alternative way of getting people their goods,” he said.
The Wednesday Night Market started three weeks ago, and customer and vendor interest is gaining, Dillon said.
“We want it to be sustainable and not overwhelming, and go day by day,” he said.
The James Beard-awarded chef also runs Bar Sajor, Sitka & Spruce and the 20-acre Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island.
“I have a small farm,” Dillon said, “so I know how to run it. If you want to get your produce into the city and sell it, it’s somewhat prohibitive.”
There’s travel expenses, parking, coolers, staffing and more, he said.
“It’s a really expensive proposition,” Dillon said. “Plus, it’s time-consuming and it’s hard.”
The night market is partly subsidized by Dillon, Chophouse Row developer Liz Dunn and neighbor Amandine Bakeshop.
Connecting him with small farmers is his friend, Luke Woodward, project manager for the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, whom he met when he opened Sitka & Spruce 11 years ago. At that time, Woodward was working at the Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center.
“Matt had the idea, get people to come back into that area — it’s a nice little spot — and try to do a farmers market there and connect with all the individual farms.”
NABC has an administration contract with Puget Sound Food Hub, a farmer-owned cooperative in the Puget Sound region, which provides a direct source for produce at the night market, Woodward said.
NABC formed Food Hub and it later became a co-op. There are 65 farmers in the system and around 300 customers.
Dillon buys the produce, marks it up enough to cover costs and saves farmers the expense and labor of bringing it to Seattle.
“It’s great for the farmer,” Woodward said, “because we buy it straight from the farmer and we put it out and the farmer gets credit, but gets to stay on the farm, where they want to be.”
And it’s a place in Capitol Hill where people can meet and socialize, outside of the bar scene or a park, Dillon said.
The night market will run 4-8 p.m. every Wednesday, year-round. Chophouse Row is at 1424 11th Ave.