Market Cities Initiative

Farmers Markets of Seattle and Project for Public Spaces

Cities can provide the setting for great markets– as essential civic infrastructure and resilient food access points. In part, this requires commitment, collaboration, and capacity. Uneven public policy responses to the Covid pandemic shone a bright light on critical gaps and urgent needs.

Stephen seized an opportunity to strategically engage and lead complementary expertise for timely conversation about the centrality of Farmers Markets as essential infrastructure amidst the Covid pandemic. As Board Chair of Neighborhood Farmers Markets (NFM), he provided leadership, strategic input, and direction to the Farmers Markets of Seattle (FMoS) collaboration with colleagues and Board leaders from Queen Anne, Pike Place and Ballard Farmers Markets.

Over the course of 2020, this FMoS team completed a rigorous, multicity “deep dive” launch as part of the Project for Public Spaces’ (PPS) Market Cities Initiative. Our Seattle team participated in this inaugural cohort with Toronto and Pittsburg, who participated through the Toronto Food Policy Council and Bloomfield Development Corporation, respectively. The collective work of the Market Cities Initiative was supported by Slow Food International and HealthBridge Foundation of Canada.

PPS’ Market Cities Initiative has a global scope to highlight trends, identify common needs, and to share best practices. The report’s Seattle findings and collected recommendations bolster our own local advocacy work, particularly leveraging the lessons of the Covid pandemic. These include:

  • Educating policymakers and the general public on shortcomings of the industrial food supply chain, and farmers markets’ role in a resilient local food system;
  • Transcending the City’s piecemeal and distributed regulatory processes, as bureaucratic burdens are inefficient and uncertainty threatens markets’ operational stability;
  • Identifying opportunities for improved market design efficiencies and overcoming operational constraints;
  • Maximizing impact and reducing inefficiencies of publicly-funded food access investments at markets; and
  • Demanding data to support greater equity and assure continued community economic impact.

We accelerated our local coalition’s capacity to listen and speak with one voice—to the communities who depend on us, and more immediately, to city hall. In fact, the discussion and vocabulary developed by our market organizations resonated well with City budget discussion and decisions. Stephen worked intentionally to leverage this process to yield greater accountability from City of Seattle bureaucracy. We met that objective by securing a mandate from the City Council leadership in the form and content of legislative action.

With the PPS Market Cities Initiative, our Farmers Markets of Seattle coalition learned to speak more clearly and collectively to the essential functions we provide. The effort was timely as we needed to more forcefully address the pandemic’s impacts on our community. We look forward to deploying this new capacity going forward, to further address the ongoing confluence of the climate crisis and economic inequality.

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