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To help farmers clear their fields and generate a little extra cash, volunteers at the Sammamish Valley Alliance pushed out the last produce of fall harvest at its final pop-up market Tuesday, Oct. 6.

In its 11-week run, the Sammamish Valley fresh pop-up market purchased nearly $11,000 of organically grown produce from a dozen local farmers, according to SVA Executive Director Brenda Vanderloop. Collectively, the community purchased 250 bags of produce totaling $7,500, plus an additional $1,000 in bulk items. 

The pop-up market has been offering bags of fresh-picked, assorted seasonal produce for purchase in the Grange parking lot in Woodinville each Tuesday. This opportunity to buy a $30 bag of excess, local produce was made possible through the efforts of SVA members and volunteers. The group plans to continue the effort next season. 

Vanderloop said 100% of sales went toward on-going purchases of local farm food. This summer, the nonprofit donated nearly $2,500 worth of fresh produce to the Woodinville Storehouse Food Bank, Camp Unity and the Northshore Senior Center, she added.

“This is really not a money maker, just an opportunity to help local farmers,” SVA volunteer Susan Webster said. “There’s fewer and fewer outlets anymore for them.” 

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Webster said several valley growers found they had no way to distribute their products with the cancellation of local farmers markets and closure of many restaurants due to COVID-19.

The socially distant drive-through market first began July 1 with the support of grant funding from the city of Woodinville. After the city rescinded the funds during a meeting Aug. 18, all subsequent money was collected and donated from SVA members and volunteers for the remainder of the season, Vanderloop said. 

At the height of summer, Webster said, cars were lined up bumper to bumper waiting for bags of produce. Tables were bare after an hour and people started asking to reserve bags in case produce sold out, she added.

Produce would vary each week depending on the day’s harvest and availability from local farms around the Sammamish Valley, said SVA President Tom Quigley. Bags and an additional selection of bulk items were sold on a first-come, first-served basis. All produce was organically grown and harvested less than 48 hours prior to distribution.

Quigley said the farmers would place their produce in a fridge for him to pick up and take to the Grange. Then, volunteers worked in an assembly line to pack the bags.

“It’s a real pop-up,” he said. “It’s up and down in a matter of hours.” 

The last fresh produce bags featured a mixed assortment of hakurei turnip, rainbow chard, red-curly kale, beets, green beans, radish, corn, garlic, slicing tomatoes and honey crisp apples—all organically grown. Special items also included Skagit Valley corn on the cob and beefsteak tomatoes.  

“We deepened our relationship with many local farmers, we met new volunteers and we discovered a new outlet for local, fresh food,” Vanderloop said. “Thank you for this very successful kick-off season. We all look forward to seeing you next year.”

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