The Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance has been advocating on behalf of market farmers and farmers markets since 1993, when we opened our first farmers market in the University District. The U-District Farmers Market was actually started as an all-volunteer effort, and the NFMA was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 2000. We now operate seven farmer/food-only Farmers Markets in the city of Seattle. For folks who wonder what we do (besides organize seven different neighborhood farmers markets comprised of 150 farmers and food artisans, totalling 217 individual market days, including cooking demos, kids activities and other fun and educational market happenings) - here is a peek at some of the additional work we do to make sure farmers have a place to sell and urban consumers (including low-income) have a place to buy good, fresh, local food:
Creating farmers markets:
We were the first (and for a long time the only) organization to approach policy makers and request support for the emerging Farmers Market movement here in Seattle. We organized task forces, lobbied, and worked with legislators and numerous City departments to accomplish the following milestones for all farmers markets our city: allowing the sale of eggs, cheese, meats and raw dairy at farmers markets; lowering prohibitively high fees for dairies to sell at all King County farmers markets; establishing affordable fees with SDOT, Parks Dept & Fire Dept for farmers markets; worked to set the standard for farmers markets in Seattle of a 70% farmer/30% other vendor mix; allowing bottled wine sales by the vintner (using only WA state grapes) at farmers markets in Seattle; allowing Farmers Markets to stage on church and community center properties without the host entity losing their tax exempt status; securing city-sponsored directional street signs in market neighborhoods to direct the public to market locations. Our most recent effort - to allow limited wine sampling for vintners at farmers markets - is now in the pilot project stage.
- We have taken food stamp redemptions since year one and are currently leading an effort to get satellite EBT machines directly to farmers to make using EBT cards easier for customers. We have secured grant funding this year for an EBT match program (our biggest match program to date).
- One of our former organizers here at the NFMA worked tirelessly and lobbied for 5 years to ensure that WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program funding would be included in the state budget. It is now a secure program (thank you Karen Kinney!).
- The NFMA is the largest donor of fresh produce in the city to Seattle's neighborhood food banks! Over 40,000 pounds were donated in 2011. In 2004, we won a City of Seattle Mayor's End Hunger Award for our donations to area food banks.
Sustainability for existing and new farmers markets:
- We worked hard for the past 10 years to assist in the purchase of the University Heights Center for the Community from the Seattle School District, where the University District Farmers Market takes place.
- We have met and negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement with Sound Transit to provide a permanent home for the Broadway Market at their new Capitol Hill station, scheduled to open in 2016. This took two years of meetings.
- We have sat on the board of the Washington State Farmers Market Association – primarily to institute the Roots Guidelines which help strengthen and define what constituters a Farmers Market in this state.
- Our director currently sits on the national board of the Farmers Market Coalition which is also defining Farmers Markets and attempting to strengthen the organizational capacity of Farmers Markets across the country.
Standards of excellence and best practices:
- The NFMA is widely recognized as having some of the best management practices for Farmers Markets in the US, and our policies are widely distributed to other Farmers Market organizations.
- The NFMA is asked to present and speak at farmers market conferences around the U.S. based on our management expertise and excellent data gathering.
- Our data collection on NFMA farmers is one of the best in the U.S. and is widely distributed to policy makers.
- Our markets make the list of best farmers markets in the country almost every year – on websites and national media including Travel and Leisure, Sunset, New York Times, Saveur, CNN, LA Times, etc.
- Our organization and/or our director Ms. Curtis have been honored by the following awards: the Pelligrini Award (2010), Advocate of the Year Award (2012), #11 on Seattle Magazine's Food Establishment list (people who have "the most substantial impact on how and what we eat"), Westside Not-for-profit of the Year (2010), Seattle Mayor's End Hunger Award (2004), and best farmers markets in numerous national and local media (Forbes, Sunset Magazine, Travel and Leisure, NY Times, US News, Seattle Weekly, various on-line magazines and blogs).
Thank you to ALL SHOPPERS for your wonderful support of local markets and local farms!! Without your support, none of this would be possible.