PORT TOWNSEND — A regular shopper at the Port Townsend Farmers Market Farming has offered to cover the cost of farm market fees in Port Townsend and Chimacum for the remainder of the season in the face of declining revenues for producers, said Amanda Milholland, director of the Jefferson County Farmers Markets.
“During this pandemic year, one market shopper, Gale Kirsopp, has taken some of the risk out of farming with an investment in both local farms and the Jefferson County Farmers Markets, Milholland said in a press release.
Sales are down more than 50 percent at the Port Townsend and Chimacum farmers markets because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milholland said.
“A three-week late start to the farmers market season and slower sales, not to mention reductions in wholesale contracts with local restaurants have left many farms scrambling,” she said.
The Jefferson County Farmers Markets rely on vendor booth fees and a 4 percent fee charged to Port Townsend Farmers Market vendors for the majority of the nonprofit’s operating costs, so when vendor attendance and sales go down, so does the market’s income.
“The market board, farm vendors and I are deeply grateful for Gale’s investment in farms and in our markets,” Milholland said. “This will make a huge difference for our agriculture community.”
Farms have had some assistance, Milholland said. Mixed produce and some flower farms have increased their Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) sales and some farms have received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or loans from the regional nonprofit, the North Olympic Development Commission (NODC).
The NODC loans will be paid back in food given to the food pantries and feeding programs in Jefferson and Clallam counties over the next several years.
Jefferson County Farmers Markets also is operating an online store this season as a new sales platform at its website, jcmarkets.org.
“Still, local farms are working hard to stay afloat during this pandemic season,” Milholland said.
Kirsopp saw a request for support in the Jefferson County Farmers Market newsletter and decided to help.
“I can’t imagine our community without thriving farms and a vibrant farmers market,” Milholland quotes her as saying.
The farmers markets in Port Townsend and Chimacum have been operating for several months with safety measures in place to help protect shoppers and vendors from transmission of COVID-19.
She has issued a challenge to shoppers during National Farmers Market Week, which is today through Saturday.
“When I looked at the sales, I found something really hopeful and achievable,” Milholland said.
”It will only take $20 more dollars weekly from each person currently shopping the Jefferson County Farmers Markets to fill the gap in weekly lost income,” she said.
”Imagine — just by every farmers market shopper buying two bouquets, a block or two of Mystery Bay Farm or Chimacum Valley Dairy cheese, or just a few more types of vegetables, we could close the gap.”
The Port Townsend market is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays on Tyler Street. The Chimacum market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 9122 Rhody Drive. The online market takes orders from 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to 1 p.m. Thursday.