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Seed & Bulb Program Helps Market Farmers Prepare for Future Growth

Posted November 28, 2022

people collecting lavenders in a field

Daughter Xee with her mother Sua, Photo courtesy of Yang Farm. 

This fall, the Pike Place Market Foundation launched the final round of our Small Business Recovery grants with a new “Seed and Bulb” program to help offset the rising costs of supplies for local farmers who sell at Pike Place Market.  

Local farmers are still being heavily impacted by the fallout of the pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and changes to our climate with recent floods and freezing crops. Last year Mary Thao of Xai C. Farm in Snohomish spoke about the effects of the COVID shut down, but says conditions are still unpredictable for farmers. 

“The weather has definitely been extreme the last few years,” says Mary. “It’s either too cold or too wet, and sometimes it’s too warm or too hot. And the supply chain issues as well, last year our tulip bulbs came late because they got stuck on a ship. We didn’t get them until November, and it was already too wet, which was such a bummer.” 

The new Seed and Bulb Program helps offset costs for the upcoming season by covering a portion of purchases for seeds, bulbs, and root starts, all of which continue to rise in price by 15% or more every season. The Market Commons staff also wanted to simplify the grant process and reduce barriers to apply, so that Market farmers could more easily access the funding opportunity and the grants could be quickly deployed. As of right now, $326,000 in individual grants have been distributed to 47 local Pike Place Market farmers. 

“As a farmer, sometimes things can cause a huge chain reaction, and you have to make sacrifices,” said Mary. “So something like the Seed and Bulb Grant definitely helps me as a farmer relax a little bit. I have a little bit of a cushion to help me with the needs.” 

Photo courtesy of Mary Thao of Xai C. Farm. 

 Yang Farm in Monroe started growing produce to sell at Pike Place Market in 1987, and in the 1990s transitioned to fresh and dried flowers. Xee Yang-Schell is using the Seed and Bulb Grant to offset costs of tulip bulbs, eucalyptus, and seeds to grow flowers for her signature dried bouquets. “I’m so grateful for the help, it’s huge for many of these very small farms,” says Xee. “We have a lot of challenges, but every little bright spot helps. Things like that make us feel like we do matter, that we are an important part of the Market.” 

Xee speaks passionately about the history of the Hmong flower farmers and the rising challenges of running a small farm. “It’s not an easy business to be in. And maybe we make it look easy, but it takes a huge toll to be a Market farmer: physically, mentally, emotionally,” says Xee. “But it’s my mom and dad’s story, it’s my community’s story, my history and my people…. we have been here for a long time, and we are a huge presence in the Market. But you know, you can’t take these things for granted. I just hope that people who come to the Market really appreciate how much work it does take.” 

This program concludes our last round of Small Business Recovery funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, totaling over $1,062,625 distributed in 189 grants to farmers and small businesses in the Market. We’re thrilled to be investing in farmers now, so they can plan for more durable crops and access the seeds, bulbs and root starts to help build up these family-owned farm businesses for 2023 and beyond. 

Join us and share your love for Market farmers by donating to support this fund, shopping local for your produce and flowers, and learning more about the history of farming communities at Pike Place Market! 

Thank you to our sponsors for their support of our Small Business Fund:

Help us continue to nurture a thriving Market community!

You can help keep the Market strong now and for generations to come by making your gift today. Thank you for giving generously this holiday season!


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