Downtown Farmers Market manager chosen

Cheryl Thyken was chosen to run the market that runs behind City Hall.

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WALLA WALLA — The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation has picked a new manager for the Downtown Farmers Market.

Cheryl Thyken has been selected to run the seasonal market that operates May through October, officials announced Thursday.

Thyken was chosen from a field of nearly 30 applicants, said foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini. She will work directly for the foundation in the 30-hour-per-week program manager position that includes administration of the market.

Thyken’s appointment is a big step in the market’s operation after a feverish several months of upheaval and reorganization. A 2012 season marked by conflict closed last year with the city’s termination of the market’s authorization to use the city’s lot behind City Hall. The city sought new operators for the market for 2013 due to numerous complaints in the organization last year.

In the months since, the downtown foundation has worked with various vendors and past market board members in a partnership that returned a market back under the direction of the foundation.

Another group, retaining the original name and bylaws of the Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market, has also made plans to operate its own market at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds. Management for that operation has not been announced. That group will host its annual business meeting and potluck April 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Center at the Park. Vendor packets and applications will be available then.

In the meantime, a vendor meeting Thursday for the Downtown Farmers Market was a chance for Thyken to be introduced, Agostini said. The meeting was the second for the downtown market and drew about 65 potential vendors to Columbia Rural Electric Association for the meeting.

With just about four hours on the job, Thyken said she mostly was there to meet vendors, listen and learn.

“It was a very positive response,” she said this morning. “I felt very, very welcomed.”

The new position marks a return for Thyken to the foundation. Between March of 2007 and June 2011 she served as program coordinator for the agency.

“She really does understand the retail and wholesale business, and she’s managed staff before and she understands the production side,” Agostini raved.

Most recently Thyken has worked as event coordinator at Friends of Children of Walla Walla.

The new position, she said, combines just about every facet of her work and interests — small-business owner, love of the outdoors, potential for outreach in that community.

Thyken previously owned a drapery manufacturing business for more than 15 years in Portland. Simultaneously she had a separate small business out of her home in the same line of work. She said she identifies with the hard-working vendors and the challenges of running a small business. She lauded the work of the advisory committee of past board and new members who have done much of the legwork developing guidelines for the market.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “I think there will be changes at the market we’ll see and new input that will be exciting.”

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