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Supporting the Continued Recovery of Pike Place Market

Posted November 5, 2021

Flower Farmer Mary build bouquets at her stall

Though the Market was back in full bloom this summer, we know we’re not out of the woods of this pandemic yet. The ups and downs of the COVID-19 crisis have proven the need for the ongoing support of the Market community. The Market Foundation continues to adapt and expand our recovery efforts in response to the changing needs of those who live, work, and access services in the Market.

Developing Small Business Funding for Market Farmers

This summer local shoppers and visitors alike returned seeking flowers and other Market goods, yet meeting that sudden demand was challenging for Market farmers. For local farmers, unpredictable circumstances are challenging to anticipate and dedicate resources towards even in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

“When you’re a farmer, anytime you’re making income is in the summertime. You don’t have a steady paycheck,” said Mary Thao, second generation farmer of Xai C. Farm. “It’s always kind of a gamble, some years are good, and some years are not. My parents had no choice but to do well.” Mary’s parents were refugees from Laos, immigrated to Seattle in 1979, and spent decades building up their farm presence.

Red flower bouquets at the Market

Mary took over the farm last May when her mother needed to have emergency heart surgery. “Our income from each tulip season goes towards purchasing bulbs for the next season, and then the pandemic hit… We had to put in our orders for next season at that time, and a lot of farmers weren’t able to purchase what they needed,” explains Mary.

To support farmers in meeting the unique challenges their businesses face in recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, the Market Foundation’s Small Business Recovery Program is expanding to serve as a resource ahead of the next season. Farmers can apply for grant funds to support a wide variety of their business goals from creating new revenue streams, to investing in equipment to increase efficiency, and more.

The Market Foundation has been offering specialized aid to farmers since the creation of the Farmer Relief Fund in 1999, this was later combined with community-supported, “pass-the-hat” efforts to form today’s Market Community Safety Net. Today, the Safety Net serves as emergency support during difficult times for the entire Market community, including relief to farmers who face natural disasters or sudden financial crisis. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to play a large and unpredictable role for the future of the farming industry, we look forward to expanding specific business funding opportunities to Market farmers.

“[The flowers] are iconic for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest itself, “said Mary, considering the power and resilience of the farming community. “It’s become a legacy in our family… Customers sometimes ask ‘where do you get the flowers’…we grow them ourselves! I hope people try to support local when they can, because it comes directly to us, the grower, who are there from the beginning to the very end.”

Velma meets with a client over Zoom

Keeping Seniors Healthy & Safe During the Dark, Cold Months

As the pandemic continues to evolve nearly 20 months in, we are still working with our agency partners to care for seniors and other at-risk populations in the Market. Food delivery, vaccination events, and hygiene kits have been crucial in helping residents stay healthy and safe, but mental health and social connection are just as important. It has been an isolating year and a half for many of our senior residents and community members who rely on social contacts for their health and wellness.

Looking to reduce the isolation of community members, staff at The Market Commons make weekly phone calls to check in with people or seniors who need someone to talk to.

“Everyone is still checking on each other and trying to remain positive,” Velma Chaney, Resource Coordinator at The Market Commons reports. “Wellness check calls are very important to make sure everyone’s in a good place… These are very hard times, and it does have its impact. We always try to encourage people and meet them where they’re at.”

The Commons has made 9,726 interactions so far this year— that’s calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings— to ensure social connectivity and resource navigation services within the Market. Staff will continue to make calls and upkeep these connections until they can roll out their in-person activities again.

“You guys have been taking such good care of me,” said a senior resident in the Market. “In 23 years of living here, I’ve never had such a feeling of being so connected to my community. It’s a really big deal for me, especially during the pandemic which can be really isolating.”

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