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Call to Designate Farmers Markets as Essential
Call to Designate Farmers Markets as Essential!!

This is an open letter to the City of Seattle. The Seattle Farmers Market Association (SFMA),  whose mission is to support and strengthen Washington's small family farms, will collect responses and deliver the public's support and concern to City offices who are coordinating the food supply during the COVID-19 crisis.

March 22, 2020

To Mayor Durkan & City of Seattle Partners,

It is our firm conviction that farmers markets are an essential part of Seattle’s food supply and that they should remain open, along with grocery stores, during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are gravely concerned about the abrupt closure of farmers markets at a time when food supply chains and our economy are under threat.

The truth is, if we cannot support and strengthen our region’s farmers during this crisis, that many small farms will not recover from the market closures and that our local food supply and regional network of farmland will be forever changed. Moreover, farmers markets serve shoppers who rely on using their SNAP and SNAP-incentive benefits like Fresh Bucks to purchase fresh food. For those who have already withdrawn benefits at the markets, they cannot now use them at grocery stores.

We are calling on City of Seattle leaders in local government to:

1) Designate farmers markets as an essential business and exempt them from the blanket suspension of permitted events;

2) Work with market management organizations to approve operating plans that support public health orders and CDC guidance on distancing, sanitation, and employee health, and;

3) Commit to closing the policy loophole that lumps farmers markets in the City of Seattle with events, festivals, and other street-use events.

We urge leaders in Seattle to take the actions above, and ultimately to ensure that Washington’s small family farms can continue to provide a vital service in feeding the community during a time of increased need. Other jurisdictions have made declarations allowing healthy members of the public to leave their homes to conduct “essential business” including grocery shopping and banking. Those declarations have been made in San Francisco, CA (, San Mateo, CA (, Minnesota (, in Maryland (, and in Pennsylvania ( Additionally, the guidance received from Governor Inslee’s office (March 13 and 16) affirms “Farmers markets are not included in today’s proclamation/ban. We are treating them like grocery stores.”

 - Agriculture is essential for safe and reliable food supply and we are committed to doing everything within our power as market operators to ensure the safety of our staff, vendors, and the public, including:
- Staying informed: We will proactively work with our local health departments, cities, and landlords to keep the markets operating as part of our local, resilient food system.
- Distancing measures to ensure shoppers maintain 6 feet of distance apart.
- Suspending all food sampling until further notice.
- Canceling music entertainment, tours, and eliminating seating to reduce the accumulation of crowds in an effort to keep all customer traffic "in transit.”
- Limitation or elimination of prepared foods, per public health guidance; ensuring any food is served “to go.”
- Hand washing stations available at the information booth for anyone to use
- Enforcement of hand-washing: Market Vendors are trained not to operate until their hand-wash station (where required) is set up and they properly wash their hands
- Cash/SNAP/EBT/Incentives Must be accepted and all Vendors must separate cash handling from food handling, as usual
- Frequent cleaning of market surfaces with disinfecting wipes and other standard cleaners before, during, and after the market
- Public education on hand-washing, COVID-19 symptoms, sanitation, and only touching what they intend to purchase.

Most of the farms we serve earn 80% or more of their household income from the farmers markets. As business owners, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. There is currently no safety net for farmers, who play an essential role in our economy and fulfill a basic need, nor are they eligible for the Small Business Stabilization Fund if they are not located in Seattle.

Your consideration of Washington’s small family farms, and the Seattle shoppers who rely on the markets for a regular supply of fresh, nutrition food from short supply chains is critical and we urge you to act today.


Seattle Farmers Market Association

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