Last week, we published reader photos of West Seattle Farmers’ Market vendors who had set up tents for pre-order pickups in what looked like an unofficial mini-market of sorts. Today, we went through The Junction at noon to see if there was a rerun; there wasn’t – the only sign we saw of vendors was one truck parked on the east side of California, one van on the west, no tents/booths. Tonight, we have an update from Jennifer Antos, executive director of Neighborhood Farmers’ Markets, the nonprofit that runs WSFM and others:
Dear West Seattle Blog Community,
The Neighborhood Farmers Markets recently shared a Community Update intended to clarify that farms, food, and farmers markets have been deemed an “essential business” by Governor Inslee, and what we are doing to modify our operating plans as we work in partnership with Seattle King County Public Health and the City of Seattle to re-open the markets.
Prior to the mandated closure of the farmers markets by the City of Seattle on March 13, we had modified our operations and will continue to act to ensure the safest access to fresh, nutritious food from local producers. While the closure of the markets has afforded us a chance to revise our operations for everyone’s safety, it is important to note that the Neighborhood Farmers Markets, farmers markets across Washington State, and agricultural producers are designated as an “essential business.” A full list of essential businesses including farmers and farmers markets is located here. Direct-to-consumer farmers are no exception, and while the markets are suspended, all have pivoted to conduct business while adhering to public health mandates, city, and statewide orders.
While farmers markets are often social spaces, it is important not to confuse this as the primary purpose. Our commitment is to farm and food-only markets that support Washington’s small family farms, food access for all, and the direct connection between people and their food. In 2019, farmers markets across Seattle processed over half a million dollars in SNAP/EBT and Fresh Bucks, donated thousands of pounds of food to local food banks like the West Seattle Food Bank, and enabled fresh food purchases subsidized by WIC and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
We are in constant communication with the City and Public Health to create plans that ensure strict distancing, sanitation, and health measures are the premise. Though we do not yet have a date for when the markets will re-open, we are actively communicating these measures so that everyone is prepared for the markets to re-open – shoppers, vendors, and our community. It is important that shoppers know farmers markets will be extremely modified upon re-opening. We will be banning the public from touching produce, encouraging pre-paid orders, requiring gloved staff select and bag product, increasing distance between vendor booths, and providing demarcation for shoppers to increase social distancing. We are exploring a possible expansion of market footprints and/or limitation of the number of shoppers at any one time, which may be different at each market site. A summary of measures can be found in the Community Update here.
Speaking on behalf of all NFM farmers, producers, and staff, we appreciate of the enormous amount of support we’ve received in our work to re-open farmers markets. We submitted the public letter of support to our partners with over 1,500 signatures and remain as committed as ever in our mission to strengthen Washington’s small farms as we feed Seattle. This month, we will launch a fundraising campaign to support farmers affected by the market closures and hope to exceed our goal of $250,000. Those interested in donating can do so here.
And if anyone is seeking to order products or food directly from the farmers who typically attend the West Seattle Farmers Market, you can find a list of options on our homepage.