Farmers Market Donations: Yakima Valley Produce Harvest

09 Dec 2022, by Admin in Market Recovery

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Farmers Market Donations: Yakima Valley Produce Harvest

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In 2012, Northwest Harvest piloted a donation booth at the Yakima Farmers Market.  The booth operated as a partnership between Northwest Harvest and a different hunger relief program each week (food bank or meal program).  These organizations, referred to as partner programs, used the opportunity to raise awareness about their services and received all food donations from that market day.  Northwest Harvest provided the tent, materials about hunger, and a constant presence for producers and donors at the market.  Northwest Harvest also organized the activity for the market day.

Over the course of the 2012 season (May – September), participating partner programs received donations of 2,211 lbs of produce as well as honey, pasture-raised meat, and plant starts through the Farmers Market donation booth.  These donations were conservatively worth an estimated $3,540.

The market booth accepted three types of donations:

  1. Produce donations from market attendees who bought extra produce from market vendors specifically for donation to a food bank; 
  2. Cash donations from market attendees, which were used to buy produce from vendors at the end of the market for donation;
  3. Produce donations from market vendors at the end of the market day.  These donations provided an alternative to trash disposal for vendors without fruit stands.

The purchasing portion of the donation booth was particularly important since it increased goodwill with market vendors and organizers by increasing economic activity at the market.  Our market program utilized a chalkboard for advertising needed items to market attendees (see market setup below, bottom right corner).  Our chalkboard was an easy DIY project, made from a donated cabinet door and some chalkboard paint (available at most hardware stores).  Participating meal programs enjoyed the flexibility that monetary donations and purchasing requests at the market gave them to buy high-quality, rarely-donated items like honey or meat.  Participating food banks enjoyed the flexibility that monetary donations gave them to bargain with growers at the end of the market day to get the most produce possible for their clients.

This program was enormously successful with the vendors at the Yakima Farmers Market, especially for the vendors of leafy greens and root vegetables and for vendors of delicate berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries).  Vendors also donated tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, onions, squash, and bread.  The amount of produce donated earlier in the season was more appropriate for a meal program (50-100lbs), whereas the food donated during the height of the growing season was more appropriate for a food bank and overwhelmed some of the meal programs we worked with (200-400lbs).

Materials needed:

  • A tent for shade, especially in eastern Washington
  • A cooler or two and ice inside for produce donations
  • Chairs and tables for display
  • Informational brochures and materials, both for food bank and meal program and for hunger in the region
  • A donation bucket
  • Extra boxes for donations from growers at the end of the market
  • Materials for the day’s activity and a smile!
Activities at the Market:

We found that having planned activities for volunteers to engage market attendees increased the satisfaction of volunteers and market attendees and increased goodwill from the vendors and market coordinator.  Activities designed to engage youth were particularly successful. Activities from 2012: 

  • Sidewalk chalk. We did various activities with chalk, including asking youth at the market to draw their favorite fruit or vegetable (pictured below), and tic-tac-toe.
  • Mr. Potatohead with real vegetables. Requires sliced vegetables, potatoes, and toothpicks.
  • A game where players match vegetables to what part of the plant they are (fruit, root, seed, stem, etc.). We executed this with Velcro on our display board. For a bit older audience.
  • Guess the vegetable! Put a vegetable in a box and have players guess by feeling, without looking.

Suggested Activities: 

  • Vegetable stamps
  • A raffle
  • Giving away seeds or seedlings          
  • Pumpkin painting