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Today Marks Five Weeks Without Our Farmers Markets

Posted by Sarah Schu at Apr 11, 2020 12:19 PM |
On Friday at 11:30am, we received a call from the Mayor’s Office saying they could not approve the re-opening of markets this weekend. That came after receiving direct and unilateral communication from Public Health, Office of Sustainability and Environment, and the Office of Economic Development that the markets would indeed be operating this weekend. We are disappointed, but we are moving forward with our mission to support Washington Farmers - Here's how you can help.

Our local food system is in uncertain times, but one thing is for sure: farmers need income now. Neighborhood Farmers Markets is offering immediate assistance through Good Farmer Fund Resiliency Relief Grants.

Let's raise $65,244.13 this weekend.

Here's the link to donate.
The significance? That's what we all spent at University District Farmers Market during this weekend in 2019.

We were sure that markets would reopen this weekend. We held off on announcing it, but if you spoke to me privately, I would have told you to make a list and gather your tote bags. However, yesterday (Friday) at 11:30am, we received a call from the Mayor’s Office saying they could not approve the re-opening of markets this weekend. That came after receiving direct and unilateral communication from Public Health, Office of Sustainability and Environment, and the Office of Economic Development that the markets would indeed be operating this weekend. We had already told the farmers. We had already trained them on the new operating procedures and standards for each market. We were ready to give farmers their main source of income back.

We were ready to run safe and successful food access points for the City of Seattle. This is our job and our staff and vendors are really damn good at it.

As you know, the City of Seattle made the unexpected decision to close the Neighborhood Farmers Markets starting the weekend of March 14. We currently do not have a reopen date for our three year-round markets. As you would expect, the market closures compiled with restaurant closures is having a devastating effect on your favorite Washington farmers.

It’s hard to make a living as a farmer, even under the best conditions. Small farms, particularly new farms, operate within such tight margins that just one emergency, can lead to a financial disaster. The livelihoods of our farmers and the local food system are currently in jeopardy. We are asking you to donate to the Good Farmer Fund today.

I know you must be missing your farmers, whether you shop all year at University District, Capitol Hill, and West Seattle or wait fervently for your seasonal market to reopen. Your farmers are also missing the markets, this is the time when they ramp up for an even busier summer and autumn growing season. Traditionally, our land-based farmers rely on March and April income from the markets in order to fund their seed and plant purchases. During this time, dairies and ranchers have many more animals to raise and feed so that they are prepared to harvest come summer. At the same time, our cheese makers and processors are busy hiring staff, buying supplies, and ramping up production to build inventory for the opening of an additional four seasonal farmers markets. The market closures are an unexpected blow to budding farm businesses and some are at the peril of closing.

In light of the mandated closure of all Seattle farmers markets, Neighborhood Farmers Markets has developed a pathway through The Good Farmer Fund to provide immediate assistance to market vendors scheduled to vend during March and April. This is an early effort to stabilize food and farm businesses through immediate relief and enable them to prepare for the re-opening of farmers markets and the growing season ahead. Traditionally, The Good Farmer Fund provides an economic stop loss for agricultural producers in times of extreme natural or unforeseen emergency or crisis. NFM will offer multiple rounds of Resiliency Relief grants during April and May in relation to the COVID-19 market closures.

We need your help. Our farmers cannot wait for federal relief and they are not eligible for the city of Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization fund. They need money now to plant our summer’s bounty. If each farmers market shopper donated $50 today, it would replenish the fund and allow us to keep Washington farmers farming. However, we know not everyone has the capacity to donate so we are asking you to do the best you can on behalf of all shoppers for our Washington farmers. We are looking for 3,000 supporters to come together to raise a total of $250,000.

Your donation will:

  • Ensure farmers can pay their utility bills, rent, and expenses on the farm.
  • Allow farmers to purchase seeds and plant starts.
  • Ensure calves, lambs, piglets, chickens, rabbits, and goats are fed.
  • Allow farmers to pursue their intended season plans including buying equipment and building infrastructure.
  • Strengthen our local food system during a time of instability.

Neighborhood Farmers Markets will be administering this fund as we have for over a decade. We will accept applications and award grants on a rolling basis starting in April. Our staff is also energized to offer additional time and technical support to any farmers and vendors that are trying to access city, state, and federal grants. Because of this, 10% of your donation today will directly support the operations of Neighborhood Farmers Markets.

Neighborhood Farmers Markets has granted over $280,000 to 87 different farms through the Good Farmer Fund to assist farms in crisis over the past 12 years. We anticipate that we will grant more than that in 2020 alone as we are the only organization in Washington that provides direct farm relief in this manner. We are excited to share the stories of how these grants are helping Washington farmers.

Thank you for supporting the health of your local food systems!

Ps. We are working tirelessly to find a solution to bring fresh produce to you and we won’t stop until we find a way to open safe Neighborhood Farmers Markets. We want each farmer that was with us during the closure in March to be able to greet their customers at the markets again. Ensure the strength of your local food system by donating today.

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