In 2020, our local farmers markets were faced with unprecedented circumstances that caused people to avoid markets and limited opportunities for farmers to sell their fresh goods. The global COVID-19 pandemic caused many markets to delay opening and search for new ways to operate. Market managers got creative by spacing out vendors, setting up sanitization stations, and controlling the flow of market visitors.
Then, just when it felt like their innovative systems were in place, Oregon experienced historic wildfires causing dangerous air pollution that threatened the health of essential farm workers and forced residents to stay indoors. And yet, many of Washington County’s farmers markets persisted through this extraordinary year.
Tualatin SWCD works closely with local markets to keep locally grown food accessible.
Supporting local food systems is a high priority for Tualatin SWCD. We believe access to fresh, healthy food is important for maintaining thriving communities. We work to link local growers to residents who can benefit from their products. Farmers markets play a crucial role in creating this link.
Every year, Tualatin SWCD offers funding to farmers markets operating in Washington County. In 2020, many markets hoped to use their funding to increase market attendance and provide vendors with additional support and training. Some markets planned to increase marketing through signage and local advertising. Others aimed to draw people in with cooking demonstrations and live entertainment. Almost all markets planned to provide food assistance in the form of market tokens and vouchers. However, when faced with the pandemic, market organizers quickly changed plans and used the funding to simply remain open, provide a safe experience for vendors and shoppers, and to help struggling community members feed their families.
Markets used Tualatin SWCD grant dollars to provide nutritional assistance and keep shoppers safe.
In 2020, in the hopes of supporting local residents and farmers, Tualatin SWCD provided markets with annual grants plus additional pandemic funding. The funding was used to match federal and state assistance dollars and provide market vouchers to community members in need. In total, we provided over $90,000 for community food assistance.
Hillsboro Farmers Markets used the funding to increase their “Double Up Food Bucks” program. This program provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients with a dollar-to-dollar match to purchase produce on market days. The Tigard Farmers Market saw an increase in SNAP benefits used compared to 2019, registering over 320 SNAP transactions.
In its first year of operation, the Cornelius Farmers Market distributed over $19,000 in nutritional assistance to low-income families and seniors. Not only did this extra funding help feed people hit hard by the pandemic, but it also benefited vendors, many of whom reported more sales than ever.
“A farmer at our market sold out for the first time. She was amazed! As I was walking by her booth, she and her daughters were dancing with joy about their experience selling out of their vegetables and fruits.”Daniela Perez, Cornelius Farmers Market
To keep shoppers safe, markets used grant funds to purchase masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and signage reminding visitors to remain physically distant and follow other safety guidelines. Markets in Beaverton and Hillsboro established drive-through shopping experiences, with Beaverton Farmers Market even providing shoppers the option to shop online from the safety of their vehicles.
Volunteers were key to market success!
Many markets are only made possible by volunteers, and 2020 was no exception! Volunteers helped inform shoppers of safety protocols, directed vehicle and foot traffic, and distributed food assistance market tokens. Funding from Tualatin SWCD was used to provide market tokens and other acknowledgements to thank volunteers for their commitment.
Want to find your nearest farmers market?
Check out this map to locate the farmers market closest to you!