News & Updates
All aspects of the local food economy have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and farmers are on the frontline making sure food is harvested, packed, and delivered in a way that prioritizes safe, healthy food for consumers. However, like many industries, farmers are facing financial hardship as sales outlets are limited or effectively gone as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
During these uncertain times, many farmers are getting creative to help consumers access fresh local food with online ordering, delivery services, and new pickup locations. The King County Local Food team has created a resource list that includes the ways you can support farmers through produce subscriptions and other innovative market options.
New resources for famers
These are unprecedented times. In response, Farm King County has mobilized a dedicated, strong partnership of talented agricultural resource providers to help farm and food businesses respond to the challenges of COVID-19. As you all know, things are changing rapidly. We pledge to provide timely, reliable, curated, and creative responses to the changing farm business environment.
Support for flower growers in King County impacted by COVID-19
Many King County farmers are impacted by the temporary suspension of farmers markets due to COVID-19. Flower growers in particular experience unique challenges because they rely heavily on farmers markets for sales. In addition, many flower growers are immigrants and refugees, and market accessibility and communication barriers only exacerbate an already challenging business landscape.
The Local Food Team spoke with Leigh Newman-Bell, Pike Place Farm Development Coordinator, and Bee Cha, King County Immigrant Farmer Outreach Coordinator, to better understand not only the challenges flower growers face but also the ways consumers can support flower growers during this time.
Why are farmers markets important for flower growers?
“Farmers markets are the main sales outlet for a majority of flower growers,” said Newman-Bell. “For Pike Place Market, flowers are a cornerstone of our brand and why many consumers visit our market.
“Many flower growers supplement their farmers markets sales with sales at events, such as weddings,” said Newman-Bell. “Since all events have been cancelled, this has worsened financial outcomes for flower growers. They are left with nowhere to sell except at essential businesses.
“Many flower growers also use revenue from flower sales to purchase seeds for vegetables and for other farming costs throughout the season,” said Newman-Bell. “Without flower sales at farmers markets, flower farmers may not be able to grow vegetables and support other aspects of their farm businesses.”
What’s more, a large number of flower farmers are immigrants and refugees who experience challenges related to market accessibility and communication barriers.
“Farmers markets can be helpful for immigrant flower growers who may face language and communication barriers because customers can see their products in person,” said Newman-Bell. “Farmers market associations focus on assisting flower growers with marketing needs so that farmers can focus on growing their product.”
“Now that the farmers markets are closed, it has been difficult for many immigrant flower growers to market themselves due to language barriers and changing customer service needs,” said Cha. “Since sales are mostly online now, it is difficult for farmers who have limited English skills to adapt as quickly as other farmers.”
“There is also a lack of information at the federal level regarding whether farmers are qualified for relief packages for small businesses, which leads to a lot of uncertainty,” said Newman-Bell. “Federal programs and resources are changing daily, so we are trying to stay as up-to-date as possible to keep our farmers informed.
“For now, we are working with other partner organizations to compile a list of resources in order to support flower growers during this time,” she said.
How can people support flower growers?
Many consumers have been looking for ways to support flower farmers while farmers markets are temporarily suspended in the City of Seattle. King County and partner food and farm organizations are working to provide up-to-date information for consumers on how to support flower growers.
Some flower farmers are connecting with existing essential businesses and selling through these outlets, while others are offering on-farm pick-up or flower delivery. Another creative way is selling through the creation of neighborhood buying groups. Below is a list of resources for supporting flower growers. This information is also on the Farm King County website.
Here are several ways to support flower growers at this time:
- Read the Pike Place Market’s blog post, “Help Support Pike Place Market Flower Farmers,” for information about supporting specific market flower businesses to help keep family farms open.
- If you are a retail store looking to become a pickup site for flower growers, please fill out a Hmong Flowers Retail Drop Off Request form. The Hmong Association of Washington Facebook page has helpful information about how consumers can connect with farmers. To provide financial support to Hmong flower growers during this time, visit the Hmong & Mien Flower Farmers Relief GoFundMe page.
- Volunteer Tara Clark established the Hmong Farmers of Pike Place Market to connect consumers directly with flower growers for delivery or pickup. To place an order, fill out an Online Order for Flowers from the Hmong Farmers of Pike Place Market.
- Donate to the Good Farmer Fund Resiliency Relief Grants, providing emergency financial relief to farms affected by the suspension of farmers markets. You can also donate to the Pike Place Market Foundation Community Safety Net Program, which helps Pike Place Market farmers who are experiencing a financial crisis.
- Start your own neighborhood buying group by organizing a group of friends and neighbors to make bulk flower purchases that will help a flower farmer's business stay afloat during this tough time. Even just 10 friends can make it easier for farmers to deliver to one central location on a daily or weekly basis. Visit the Neighborhood Farmers Market buying guide for ways to order directly from flower farms.
You can work with one farmer to decide a way to process payments through Venmo, PayPal, or cash/check that is safe and convenient for you. If you are interested in starting your own group and have questions, please feel free to reach out to Leigh Newman-Bell for more information. To learn more about an existing neighborhood buying group, please contact Tara Clark.
Please reach out to us if you are aware of other flower growers in King County that are not included on these lists. We will be updating the website on a regular basis.
Start Farming in King County: New resource guide to help farmers reach their business goals
- Learning how to farm,
- Developing a business and marketing plan,
- Financing their farm business,
- Getting required permitting and licensing, and
- Finding a place to farm.
This guide provides resources, tips, and information on programs that can help farmers reach their farm business goals. No matter where you are in this process, whether you want to learn how to farm or you are ready to access credit to support and grow your operation, this guide can help you figure out where to start and assess the options available to you. Download the guide to get started on the right path to farm business success!
Urban Agriculture Spotlight: White Center Food Bank
Urban agriculture is empowering communities across King County. Whether it’s reintroducing culturally significant foods in an area where they are scarce, or giving people access to land in order to learn a new skill, the impact is felt far and wide.
The Local Food Team began sharing the stories of a selection of Urban Farmers from the South County Urban Ag Network to highlight the benefits of urban agriculture three months ago. We will continue by sharing White Center Food Bank's story, which is the final story of this series.
The mission of White Center Food Bank is to nourish community, nurture self-reliance, and embrace White Center’s rich cultural diversity. They operate a grocery store on site, which includes a baby pantry for diapers, formula, and baby food, and run mobile food bank programs for seniors and disabled customers, and manage community gardens down the street.
The food bank is situated in White Center, a small, non-annexed area bordered by West Seattle, Burien, and Highline. Food banks are a critical source of community support for individuals and families struggling with economic hardship that leaves them without enough money to buy food.
The mission of White Center Food Bank is not just to provide people access to any food, but culturally relevant food. The majority of food bank customers are immigrants, and their cultural foods aren’t provided by the typical food bank.
For people in many cultures, eating and sharing their food is a method of connecting with family, culture, ancestors, and spirituality. Having access to fresh, culturally relevant food nourishes not only the physical body, but the spirit in intangible ways.
Continue reading White Center Food Bank's story and other urban agriculture stories. Image of the inside of the White Center Food Bank grocery store, courtesy of Esmeralda Manjarrez.
Tukwila Village Food Hall grand opening this spring
Have you read Fortune’s recent article about the innovative ways restaurants are improving eating and community experiences around the country? If so, you may have heard about a new food hall opening in Tukwila.
The Local Food Team recently spoke with Kara Martin, Food Innovation Network (FIN) Program Director, about the grand opening and importance of the Tukwila Village Food Hall to food entrepreneurs in King County.
This spring, FIN will open Tukwila Village Food Hall, the future home of the FIN’s Food Business Incubator to help entrepreneurs launch food businesses, providing training, mentorship, subsidized commercial kitchen access, and support with permitting, licensing, menu planning, and marketing.
The Food Hall will support local entrepreneurs who are an important part of King County by providing access to a commercial kitchen, restaurant space, and a community hub – a place where people can gather to learn about and celebrate the community’s rich food traditions.
The new food hall facility will help low-income women, immigrants, and refugees launch and build food businesses. The commercial kitchen will accommodate up to twenty businesses, nine of which will sell prepared food in the dining area. The names of those businesses will be announced soon, so please keep an eye out for more details.
Food Hub Feasibility Study: Closing the gap in our local food system
The local food system is comprised of a diverse array of stakeholders small and medium sized farms, food entrepreneurs, farmers markets, small food distribution companies, food banks, and more – all of whom require right-sized infrastructure to produce, process, and distribute products and serve their customers.
Much of the existing regional food system infrastructure is either not accessible or not of the proper scale to meet the needs of small and medium farms and food businesses in our region. This includes a need for processing, packaging, dry and frozen storage, and transportation capacity, that if developed, could increase markets for locally produced products, increase access to fresh produce in under-served communities, and help to foster new relationships and opportunities among food system stakeholders.
Survey says… Washington farmer-landowner relationships are important for on-farm conservation
In November, American Farmland Trust (AFT) released the Washington state fact sheet summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners (NOLs) survey that surveyed individually or partnership-owned lands. This survey revealed that there is significant opportunity for increased conservation practices on rented land to improve soil quality.
New WSU Extension Publication
A new Publication on soil organic matter is now available from WSU Extension: Understanding and Measuring Organic Matter in Soil.