As farms prepare for another fall harvest, the message from local farmers remains the same: climate change has taken a heavy toll on crops.
The Sammamish Valley Alliance hosted its annual Fall Harvest Celebration at 21 Acres, and several other locations around the valley, on Saturday, Sept. 25.
A slew of farms over on Northeast 124th Street celebrated the harvest with tours, apple picking, fresh food and more. Blooming Market, located at South 47 Farms, displayed an array of local products from a collective of women-owned businesses. Products ranged from henna to hemp.
“It's been hit or miss because it's so brand new, but I think everybody's having fun,” said Jessi Bloom, owner of NW Bloom and co-host of Blooming Market. She also teaches permaculture at Oregon State University and serves as a King County Agricultural Commissioner.
Bloom launched the market earlier this year alongside Natali Schutz, owner of ZOZ Wellness. About 2.5 acres of hemp for Schutz’s products is grown on-site.
According to Bloom, the market was a joint idea between her and Schutz to fight the stigma of cannabis and the challenges that women often face in business. Saturday was the last market of the season, she noted.
“We're both women in the industry that are very dominated by men, especially in this world of farming and cannabis and landscaping,” Bloom said.
NW Bloom, a landscape ecological service company, has served the greater Seattle area since 2000. The business specializes in environmentally conscious alternatives to conventional landscape practices, according to its website. Projects range from stormwater management to residential backyard renovations.
Bloom said she launched the farm about three years ago “as a way to connect with the community.” Since then, she has taken over different areas of the property that needed stewarding such as the apple orchard and blueberry bushes.
“Nobody was taking care of them,” she said.
According to her, the land is owned by an unknown person and six farms operate business on the property. She said the area has become a hub for community building and education.
“The farmland is nice and accessible, but it's very challenging as a business owner,” Bloom said. “When I got here, I realized how there's very little leadership around the agricultural sector. All this land has been threatened by development or other issues.”
She said farms are disappearing fast, especially in this area with all the construction and development. Additionally, she noted, worsening conditions as a result of the climate crisis are not helping the situation.
Most significantly, she said, the recent heat waves created more sunburned and damaged fruits. Less people were able to visit the orchard this year due to apple damage, she added.
“The apples taste great, they just don't look as pretty this year,” she said. “They're never going to be cosmetically perfect because we don't use chemicals.
Bloom said her biggest message to the community is elect people that care about the future. Politicians need to be thinking about what the climate and food production will look like for their kids 10-20 years from now, she said.
“It's just a matter of educating folks about the circumstances and letting them know that the plants are all stressed,” she said. “As food is harder to grow, the costs are just going to go up. It’s very relevant, very local.”