This week we have spoken to the man behind the scenes at the Fairwood Farmers Market, Rob Allen, also known as the “Don of the Fairwood Farmers Market”. He has taken an active role in fostering a great community in Spokane, especially down at Fairwood. The market has been an absolute success, in part, because of Rob. This man has a knowledge of the Fairwood community and knows it has the potential to become the new hot spot of Spokane…starting with the market.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I moved to Spokane with my family when I was 10 years old. For years, my passion was community journalism. I was a reporter and editor at the Spokesman-Review back in the 70s. Later I was publisher of Spokane Valley News. After 10 years in marketing at Avista Utilities, I eventually joined the company I now own that produces home exercise devices for people with injured shoulders. It is located in Fairwood.
Adrienne and I have been married 40 years. She graduated from Holy Names Academy. I graduated from West Valley High School and Eastern Washington University. We have 7 children, six of whom graduated from Mead High School. The other graduated from Northwest Christian.
How did you first get involved in the Fairwood Farmer’s Market?
I’ve been to the great farmers’ markets in Bellingham and in San Francisco at the Ferry Terminal Building. In Spokane, the Thursday Market in the South Perry neighborhood proved it could be done here. I own the parking lot where the Fairwood Farmers’ Market is held on Tuesdays. Some co-workers and I decided to organize a local market on a one-time basis last Fall to see if there was interest on the North Side. It was a fun success. Vendors asked if we could somehow keep it going.
What benefits do you think people get from using the market as a food/goods resource?
There’s nothing like talking to the growers when you are picking out fresh food, or to the bakers when you are trying fresh bread. It is easy to forget we have fresh apples, cherries and corn growing right nearby on Green Bluff. Grain fed beef, free range chickens, and cheese from Chattaroy goats are local treats that are a wonderful part of living here.
What are the top three reasons for shopping at a farmers market?
To buy local and to eat freshly prepared food. Plus, you can get Commellini’s frozen meals to take home for supper! It has been so rewarding to see the same families coming to the market now, week after week, and bringing their friends.
How do you think the Fairwood Farmers Market differs from other Spokane markets?
Fairwood is just a stone’s throw from local farms. A lot of our vendors invite their customers to drive up for a visit. Also, our local music makes a difference. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see someone you know performing during the market. We’ve had a Marimba band from Evergreen Elementary, a local jazz guitar and vocalist ensemble from Whitworth, and an 11-year-old fiddle player from a local church.
How has the market been impacting the Fairwood community?
I am hopeful that this will be another step toward revitalization of the Fairwood Shopping District. Our neighborhood already has a sense of identity. Now if we can add to it with walkable destinations like a Farmers Market, a favorite pub or martini bar, an upscale coffee shop and local Thai food restaurant, we’ve really got something. Perhaps all of the Fairwood Center can eventually be built out. There’s still lots of vacant land here. I’d also like to see a bike shop with rentals, a summer ice cream outlet, maybe local pizza. We need improved trails behind Bozarth Mansion along the Little Spokane River.
How has the market differed or grown from the beginning of summer to now?
We tried monthly markets in June and July on the first Tuesday. The sustained interest gave us the courage to try weekly markets during the harvest season, so every Tuesday through October 6 we’re going to test its viability. Wish us luck!