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.

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Pike Place Farmers Market before social distancing was in place and farmers markets had been temporarily suspended

“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.” 

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 at Leigh.NB@pikeplacemarket.org for more information. To learn more about an existing neighborhood buying group, please contact Tara Clark here.

Please reach out to us at ocarros@kingcounty.gov 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.

Disclaimer: King County is not responsible for content provided in the external links.

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