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.
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
A Letter from Joe Gruber, NFM Board Chair
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
For more than 25 years, NFMA’s Executive Director Chris Curtis has been the face of our neighborhood farmers markets. Her extraordinary vision, unwavering commitment, and tireless energy have created vibrant marketplaces for Washington farmers, brought locally grown produce to Seattleites all across the city, and permanently shaped how we, as a community, value and access fresh, locally grown food.
Today I am writing to let you know that Chris will be retiring from her position at NFMA this spring. She and the board have been planning for this transition over the past year, and a clear plan is in place for moving forward. NFMA’s strong and capable staff will ensure that the important and necessary work of preparing for the 2018 market season will carry forth in earnest during the transition, and we hope to have a new Executive Director in place by June.
Over the next few months we will be conducting a national search for NFMA’s next leader. As a board, it is our priority to find the best candidate to lead this organization forward while remaining firmly focused on our mission to support small farms and vibrant markets. To that end, we have engaged Clover Search Works to facilitate this process and to support a successful transition. Board Vice President Jacqueline Gjurgevich has stepped in to lead a search committee that includes current and former board members, farmers, and staff. We will share a job announcement shortly, and at that time we hope that you will actively help us identify great candidates by promoting the opportunity within your networks.
We will find a fitting way to honor Chris’ legacy later this year, but for now, let me just say that the board cannot thank Chris enough for the tremendous network of neighborhood markets that she has created for Seattle and for our state’s small farmers and food producers. She will be missed by board, staff, shoppers, farmers, and so many other folks. But she is leaving the NFMA in excellent health, and we are all excited about the future of the organization. And we have no doubt that she will remain an ardent advocate and supporter of farmers and the markets, no matter what her next chapter may bring!
If you have questions or concerns during this transition process, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com. And be sure to congratulate Chris on her retirement when you see her!
See you at the markets!
Neighborhood Farmers Markets Board Chair