PORT TOWNSEND — In an effort to lower financial barriers to joining the markets in Port Townsend and Chimacum, the Jefferson County Farmers Markets has established the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Business Start-up Fund to make grants of $250 to $1,000 in time for the coming market season.
The awards come with no strings attached, said Deirdre Morrison, the farmers market’s manager.
For potential vendors at the Saturday Port Townsend market, which is expected to open April 3, Morrison is still accepting applications despite the official Feb. 1 deadline.
“We’re trying to be flexible, knowing it’s been a crazy year,” she said Thursday.
For the Sunday Chimacum farmers market to start June 6, grant applications will be accepted through April 1.
Forms for either market can be found at jcfmarkets.org/apply.
Morrison also encourages farmers, chefs and artisans of color who are interested in vending but aren’t quite ready for this spring to contact her via 360-379-9098 or [email protected].
She hopes to provide them with a connection to the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE), which offers free guidance to business people across western Washington.
As for those who apply for BIPOC Business Start-up Fund money, the CIE provides a four-hour “Bootstrap Business” class on honing a business plan.
Entrepreneurs can use their grant dollars to cover costs such as supplies, mobile equipment, marketing materials and signage for the market.
The Port Townsend Food Co-op, a startup fund partner, can help nascent businesses with packaging choices, distribution and regional sales, Morrison said.
“We’ve received three applications,” she said of the new fund, adding she hopes to replenish it annually for continued awards.
The farmers market is a fertile place for a new business to test out products and ideas and hear feedback directly from customers, she believes.
Jefferson County Farmers Markets “recognizes the impact systematic racism and white supremacy have had on the availability of traditional financing to BIPOC folks,” said Amanda Milholland, a member of the organization’s equity committee.
She added that the historical lack of access to inherited wealth and financial resources has also made it a struggle for people of color to start their dream businesses.
Morrison reported that 55 vendors of various kinds have applied to set up at this season’s Port Townsend Farmers Market.
“That’s fewer than usual by quite a bit,” she said, adding she’ll still have to winnow down the field. The market has had to shrink to 30 or 40 vendors amid pandemic restrictions.
“We prioritize farms first: anybody growing food locally. And we have a rubric we work with for prepared food and artisan or craft vendors,” depending on how much of their wares are locally sourced. Morrison also looks at whether an applicant’s products are distinctive enough to generate healthy sales.
In spring-summer 2021, “we hope to resume the art and chef demos and music,” she said, “but we’re starting the market without those.
“We’re just trying to hold the boat steady.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]