Community without contact: Supporting innovative farmers through CSAs, online markets, and farm stands

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.

Why is Community Supported Agriculture important during this time?

Individuals and families can get fresh and local produce delivered close to home by subscribing to a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program. A CSA is a subscription program where farms deliver weekly boxes of their harvest. Fruits and vegetables are delivered weekly to specified drop sites or for pickup on the farm. Recipes and cooking tips are often included to help customers use produce that may be unique.

CSAs provide security to both the farmer and consumer. CSAs provide farmers with guaranteed sales, eliminating possible waste in the marketplace. CSA subscriptions also provide farmers with the financial support needed at the start of the season when income is low and expenses are high. In return, subscribers are guaranteed a share of the harvest throughout the designated season.

Investment in local foods is an investment in food security for our region. Through a CSA subscription, you can get to know where your food is coming from and who is growing it nearby. 

Farmers markets and farm stands: what can customers expect?

Although operations look different for farmers and customers, farmers markets and farm stands are traditional market outlets that continue to be important for growers. The Ballard, University District, and West Seattle farmers markets have recently opened in King County. See contact information on these markets below.

Farmers markets have responded to the COVID-19 crisis in innovative ways. Ballard has adopted a drive-through market on one side of farmer stalls and walk-up on the other side. The University District market has developed special signage to assist consumers with buying farm products safely. Other markets are offering the opportunity to order products in advance. The most recent updates can be found on Seattle Farmers Markets webpage.

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Photo credit: Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets Association

Want to go to the source for your food? Farm stands, located directly on farms, are owned and operated by the farm. If you live in these communities, or find yourself in the area, farm stands are a great source of the freshest local food around.

You can buy produce at these stands, located off a farm driveway, typically with cash payments. These open air stands enable people to practice social distancing by taking turns at the stand. Several of the directories shared below list farm stands you can find in King County.

Can’t visit the farm? Then consider ordering online directly from a local farm.  Many farms offer online ordering for pick up at the farm or another location. See the resource list below and visit farm websites for more details on how to order directly from farms.

Farmers finding creative ways to connect directly with customers

Online markets and drive-thru sales are just a few examples of the many ways that farms are selling directly to consumers.

Pre-order drive thru markets

In Enumclaw, a group of farmers has created the REKO Market to offer their products online and host a shared, weekly pick-up site. REKO began as a network of local markets across Finland where food producers and consumers meet to exchange goods.

“REKO uses a Facebook-based pre-ordering system that offers an easy method of buying from a variety of farmers and producers, in the community, with pick up at a single farm location, once a week within a set window of time,” said Julie Kintzi, Enumclaw REKO Market co-founder and farmer at Cart before Horse farm. “This drive-thru method is meant to be quick and easy for both the farmer and the customer.

“With a REKO- Market, for the convenience of both farmers/producers and the public, you drive-thru and pre-paid products are handed to you without even getting out of your car,” said Kintzi. “Our REKO group are all fans and supporters of farmers markets and we urge you to support both.”

Pre-order from farmers online

Jubilee Farm, in Carnation, opened a temporary online farmstand to help producers in the area sell products while farmers markets were closed in Seattle.. The online farmstand allowed individuals to pre-order food and farm products and then pick up orders at the farm while requiring visitors to follow social distancing practices.

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Preorders are being prepared for customers at Jubilee Farm. Photo credit: Jubilee Farm

“We were able to connect between 75-100 people each week to a variety of local farms and producers while adhering to social distancing guidelines and limiting folks in the barn,” said Liz Kramps, Jubilee Farm CSA Manager. “Our preorder market will be ending in mid-May as farmers markets reopen and farmers reestablish their own business models.

“Even though our preorder market closed May 12, we think the online farmstand model worked well and is something that we will keep in mind to do in the future – global pandemic or not” said Kramps.

Online marketplaces

Vashon Fresh allows Island residents to buy local, sustainably grown food from numerous farms and food makers. Residents choose what they wish to buy, the amount, and the vendor. Then, Vashon Fresh puts the order together and delivers it directly to residents or to their pickup location at the Village Green.

Vashon Fresh is a project of the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) whose mission is to promote farming, access to healthy food, and sustainable agricultural economy. For more information, visit their website .

Thank you for supporting local agriculture this season and wearing a mask, adhering to social distancing, and following health and safety protocols at all of these market locations.

The resource list below provides information about all of the market options you can support during this time:

 

While these resources provide useful information for supporting farms during this time, we recognize that they are not comprehensive and do not include every farm in King County.

King County has mobilized a dedicated, strong partnership of talented agricultural resource providers to create a comprehensive mapping tool that displays all farms in King County similar to the City of Seattle’s Restaurant Map, which will be available soon.

For additional food and farm COVID-19 response resources, please visit Farm King County. Thank you for your support of local food and farms!

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