SEATTLE - There they make dough from scratch - enough for more than 100 pizzas - and chop mountains of local herbs and vegetables. Then, on Saturday morning, they pack up a trailer with firewood and a pizza oven fashioned from a propane tank cut in half and capped with a recycled mooring buoy.
John Shelley calls their mobile pizza parlor a "no bank-loan restaurant." Others might call it a business model for living your dream during challenging economic times.
With hundreds of local entrepreneurs working in backyards, home kitchens and on family farms to come up with new ways to sell everything from pizza to pickled vegetables, Washington state's farmers markets are more than just places to pick up lettuce and strawberries.
Home cooks tempt with stands selling Ethiopian stews, Mexican tamales and Indian curries. Craftspeople arrive with scarves made from locally sourced lambs wool and wooden furniture stained with British tea.
Take the time to chat, and you'll find every vendor has a story.
"Every farm and every family hammers out their own way of making it work," says the Heirloom Cattle Company's Dan Peplow, a fifth-generation Mennonite rancher in the Yakima Valley.
Feeling inspired, or just hungry? Grab an empty cooler or a picnic basket and plan a day trip to one of the state's more than 150 farmers markets.
Here's our take on five worth the drive:
-Port Townsend Farmers Market
620 Tyler St., in Uptown Port Townsend.
Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, April-December. (Also 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, June 20 through September; and in Chimacum, Jefferson County, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sundays, May 20 through October.) See http://www.ptfarmersmarket.org.
Drive time from Seattle: About two hours, including a 30-minute ride aboard the Bainbridge Island ferry from Seattle's Pier 52.
What's special: With 70 vendors, including cider makers, bakers, farmers and artists, this market earned the "Market of the Year" designation from the Washington State Farmers Market Association in 2011.
What to eat: Don't leave without buying a cheese stick from Pane d'Amore. The footlong snack is like an adult version of a licorice twist, easy to hold and whittle down in seconds. Worth bringing home are goats-milk cheeses from Mystery Bay Farm on Marrowstone Island, jars of kimchi from Midori Farm and pastries from Romanian baker Anca Hasson.
Making a day of it: Picnic on the beachfront at nearby Fort Worden State Park, or leave the car parked and walk to quiet Chetzemoka Park, with gardens and a kids' play area. Save time for a stop at the Finnriver Farm & Cidery tasting room in Chimacum.
-Bainbridge Island Farmers Market
Town Square at City Hall Park.
Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, mid-April through mid-December (until 2 p.m. July through Labor Day). See http://www.bainbridgefarmersmarket.com.
Drive time from Seattle: None. Just walk on the Bainbridge Island ferry. The market, with 40 food and craft vendors, is a 10-minute stroll from the Winslow ferry dock.
What's special: The feeling of being in a rural village just 30 minutes from downtown Seattle. Out-of-town guests love this trip. They get a ferry ride, a waterfront stroll and a picnic lunch, all in a few hours.
What to eat: Bainbridge Island Barbeque's Gregory Epstein starts the morning taking orders for 16 types of omelets. This year he's adding a "Toss of the Day," a salad composed of vegetables from market vendors. Fill your picnic basket with fresh-picked berries. Add chevre made from the milk of Nubian ewes raised on the Port Madison Goat Farm and Dairy, and bread from Terra Bella Farm, and you've got lunch.
Making a day of it: Picnic at Eagle Harbor's Waterfront Park, then circle back to town for a browse through the galleries and shops along Winslow Way. Make a dessert stop at Mora Iced Creamery and a scoop of its signature blackberry ice cream.
-Olympia Farmers Market
700 Capital Way N. and Market Street.
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, April-October; Saturday-Sunday, November-December. See http://www.olympiafarmersmarket.com.
Drive time from Seattle: About an hour south on Interstate 5. Take Exit 105 toward Port of Olympia.
What's special: With 90 vendors, this is one of the region's largest markets, drawing farmers, bakers, chefs, musicians and artists from four counties. Most of the market is under cover, so no problems if it's raining.
What to eat: There's always a line at Wagner's European Bakery for strawberry mounds, big squares of puff pastry filled with Bavarian cream and topped with fresh berries. Johnson's Smokehouse tempts with pepperjack-sausage sticks. Sullivans Homestead fills huge bins with apples and onions from Eastern Washington.
Making a day of it: Stop for a coffee tasting at Batdorf & Bronson roasters, then stroll the boardwalk along Budd Inlet or take a walk around Capitol Lake. Detour at a path that leads to the state Capitol and take a free tour.
-Bellingham Farmers Market
Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, April through Dec. 22, (Also noon-5 p.m. Wednesdays in Fairhaven, June through Sept. 26,) See http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org.
Drive time from Seattle: About 1.5 hours. Follow Interstate 5 north. Exit on State Street.
What's special: The market celebrates its 20th anniversary with cooking demos, kids' vending days and 20-percent discounts on the first Saturday of the month.
What to eat: Pick up spicy spring greens and strawberries from Gretchen Woody, who puts her sustainable-agriculture degree to work at Spring Frog Farm. Backyard Bees sells honey extracted from urban hives. Ethiopian-born Mulunesh Belay treats marketgoers to her mother's recipe for lentil stew.
Making a day of it: Stroll along a paved trail and picnic at Boulevard Park on Bellingham Bay. Cliff-hugging Chuckanut Drive makes for a scenic detour back to I-5.
-Kittitas County Farmers Market
Downtown Ellensburg, Fourth Avenue between Pearl and Ruby streets.
Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, May-October. See http://www.kittitascountyfarmersmarket.com.
Drive time from Seattle: About two hours. Follow Interstate 90 east to Exit 109 toward Ellensburg.
What's special: The drive through the Cascade Mountains over Snoqualmie Pass into the flat, grassy plains that define Eastern Washington. This is cattle country and the place to stock up on grass-fed beef and lamb.
What to eat: Mennonite ranchers Dan and Sarah Peplow are back this year with frozen steaks from cattle fed on grasses and plants native to their ranch on the Yakama Nation reservation. Slabs of halloumi cheese and Greek-style feta come from sheep and goats raised at the Tieton Farm & Creamery.Making a day of it: You'll find shaded picnic areas and trails at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park along the Yakima River.
Just east of town is Puget Sound Energy's Wild Horse Wind Farm, with a visitors center and free tours.
See http://www.wafarmers markets.com or call 206-706-5198 for dates and hours of operation of farmers markets around the state.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun