Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Founder oF University District Farmers Market Resigning

A neighbor would like to share this information:

An Announcement from our Executive Director and Founder, Chris Curtis

Dear Friends in the Farmers Market Community,

I am writing today to share the news that in June of this year I will be retiring from my role as Executive Director of the Neighborhood Farmers Markets. After 25 years of organizing, managing and providing leadership to the Farmers Market movement, I am ready to step back and pass the baton to a new NFMA Executive Director.

A change of guard for the NFMA is significant for lots of reasons. Not least among them is the fact I am leaving a job that has been a huge chunk of my working life and has meant the world to me. I’m thankful for so many years of being able to do meaningful work within the local farm and food community and I am so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish on behalf of local farms, start up artisan food businesses, neighborhood revitalization and community building.

Right now it’s hard to imagine Seattle without its network of excellent Farmers Markets, but I remember a time when there were no neighborhood markets. The U-District Farmers Market opened in 1993; an all-volunteer non-profit effort led by a group of passionate folks who shared my vision of a bold new prototype for getting local farmers into the city. (To give you an idea of just how grass roots we were, we ran the market out of my tiny home basement for 7 years.) From the beginning, we were lucky to be guided by a strong core of local farmers who strongly advised us that our success would hinge on prioritizing local farms and food. I’m so proud we’ve kept this core principle front and center all these years.
Seventeen local produce farmers were on hand on opening day in 1993…and 600 shoppers.  It was a small (but strong) beginning for the NFMA which currently supports 7 markets (3 of which go year-round), 120 farmers, 10,000 acres of actively cultivated farmland and 600,000 shoppers this past year. In the last 24 years, our NFMA markets have ensured that local farmers can make a viable living direct selling in Seattle and that Seattle eaters think differently about the important benefits of buying local food from local farms. I can say without hesitation that our NFMA Farmers Markets have led the local food movement and put a true, trusted and best face on local agriculture.
The list of highlights over the last 25 years is long, but I’d like to mention a few. Largely hidden from view, but worthy of recognition is the important role our seven NFMA markets have played in food security.  I want to thank our farmers who have donated over 700,000 pounds of fresh local produce and food to Seattle food banks! Having forged solid relationships with Sound Transit and the City of Seattle over the past few years guarantees our markets have secure and permanent locations forever in our rapidly changing city. And our precious Good Farmer Fund which has dispensed $216,000 in grants over the last 8 years to farmers in need of emergency financial help makes the NFMA stand out in its undeterred support of local farmers.

Since the beginning, the NFMA has been blessed with a strong, intelligent and committed team of managers and administrative staff. They have helped the organization grow, mature, become more professional and have laid a stable groundwork for many more years of market success and NFMA recognition. I want to thank all of them for their tremendous contributions to our success.

The NFMA has grown to be the largest Farmers Market organization in Washington and is a leader in setting high standards for Farmers Market policies and practices locally and across the US. The NFMA led the initiative that allowed cheese, eggs, meats, poultry, fish and wine at Farmers Markets in Seattle/King County.  In 2009, the NFMA led the charge into city hall on behalf of our city’s Farmers Markets resulting in the Seattle Farmers Market Ordinance which defines markets that prioritize farmers and lowers or eliminates fees for market use of streets and parks.  In 2012, the NFMA was responsible for developing and piloting the successful Fresh Bucks program which increases market food access to low income folks and which is now replicated state-wide. And in 2015, the NFMA convened the city-wide Seattle Farmers Market group which now meets regularly to share advertising costs, write grants, standardize policies and advocate on behalf of all our markets.
I also want to extend a huge thank you to all our NFMA board members who have provided strong and wise oversight from the beginning.  They have guided this ship through 24 years of annual growth and scalable success. Our farmer board members have also played an especially important role in regularly helping us wrestle with policy and vendor concerns. Our stellar market staff and board are currently actively engaged in planning for and managing the leadership transition process.  Please know that there will be no interruptions to our primary mission of providing support to local farmers and operating the best Farmers Markets in the state!
I will be working with the NFMA through the end of 2018 on special projects related to the NFMA and Farmers Markets where I can lend my experience and perspective. I intend to continue my support and advocacy on behalf of Farmers Markets, local foods and local farms as long as I can and look forward to seeing many of you who are engaged in the same priorities.

Thanks to all of you in the NFMA community who have helped make my last 25 years of work so significant and worthwhile. Together, we’ve created a local food and farm movement that is one of the best in the US. I am confident the deep roots we’ve planted will continue to spread and produce bumper yields for years to come.

Chris Curtis, Executive Director
Neighborhood Farmers Markets

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