To promote farming, access to healthy food, and a sustainable agricultural economy on Vashon Island through education, advocacy, and a vibrant farmers market.
Vashon is successfully championing local growers and producers of healthy and nutritious food. The Saturday Market continues to expand along with members and supporters. The number of farmers and the amount of land being farmed is steadily increasing as are the number of food entrepreneurs attracted to this resource. Vashon grown and produced food has a respected reputation and market share throughout the region and contributes substantially to the local economy and a resilient regional food system.
VIGA’s Identity Statement
We promote farming and food production in order to sustain a viable agriculture sector and economy. We do this by serving farmers and growers, food entrepreneurs, and customers on the Island and the region. The programs and services we provide include access to equipment, storage and supplies, increased access to land, technical support and education, operation of a local market and access to metropolitan area markets. VIGA is Vashon’s preeminent farm and grower organization with long standing ties to the statewide Tilth organization, and close collaboration the Vashon Land Trust and Vashon Park District. It operates with an active board of directors, excellent professional staff and volunteers drawn from its membership. VIGA is financially supported by earned income, member dues and donations, fundraising events, foundation grants, business sponsorships, and government grants and contracts.
VIGA’s Strategic Priorities
1. Support Farmers and Producers
2. Make healthy food accessible to all
3. Operate the Farmers Market
4. Build Organizational Capacity
5. Educate Growers and Eaters
6. Engage Local and Regional Communities
Current Board of Directors
Rich Osborne, President
Christopher ‘Byrd’ Van Putten, Vice President
Caleb Johns, Treasurer
Peter Smutko, Secretary
Perrin Meriwether, Vashon Farmers Market Manager –email@example.com
The Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) began in the 1980s with a few people who wanted to create on-island jobs in farming. They started a small Farmers Market near the current Post Office, and by 1990 had moved to the current site (although it was private property then) and built a small structure to house the Market.
A small group of local growers continued selling into the 1990s, and craft vendors joined the effort and even managed the Market for a while. Controversies over what could be sold caused the owner of the land to close down the Market, but the farmers regrouped and a more narrowly defined Farmers Market featuring locally grown produce returned.
To help stabilize their efforts, the founding farmers decided to apply to become a member of Washington Tilth, a statewide organization promoting local, organic agriculture. A Mission Statement and bylaws were adopted and VIGA became an official Tilth chapter and a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. As an organization devoted to ‘supporting local agriculture through education and the Farmers Market,’ VIGA developed a strong educational program, the Get Growing series, which focused on assisting people to grow more food for their families as well as for the Market.
In 1998 VIGA received a grant to build the current shed structure, and the following year spearheaded a community-wide effort to purchase the land under the shed. Over $200,000 was raised to buy what is now known as the Village Green, and the permanent home of the Vashon Island Farmers Market.
VIGA’s educational focus continued as volunteers from the group helped the Vashon High School develop a horticulture program focusing on raising fruits and vegetables organically. VIGA volunteers helped create the high school garden, tilling, fencing and refurbishing a greenhouse for the students. VIGA members have been the faculty of the program since its inception.
The educational program continued to expand with VIGA members taking an active role in the WTO protests in Seattle in 2000. Local growers marched, attended workshops, made breakfast for over 300 farmers and supporters, and hosted farmers from all over the world at a dinner on Vashon featuring locally grown food. Out of that effort came an increased focus on the politics of food here on Vashon and around the world. The most recent educational programs have focused on low-cost food production and preservation.
As the Farmers Market grew, VIGA looked for assistance and in 2004 hired its first staff member – a professional Market Manager. The Market thrived under her leadership and continues to grow and prosper under the ongoing leadership of different Market Managers. VIGA volunteers continued to develop educational programs as well as do the work of a growing organization.
Today VIGA is a thriving organization playing a major role in supporting agriculture on Vashon Island. Retail sales of locally grown produce topped $300,000 in 2010. There’s a growing interest in island-raised meat and dairy products as well. New business enterprises are springing up to support these developments including a producers co-op for wholesale sales and a mobile slaughter house. Island restaurants feature island produce and an island-produced soft cheese is one of the most highly regarded and popular around Puget Sound.
Most significantly, more people are growing food on Vashon; there are now at least 12 farms represented at the Farmers Market and most host interns who help plan to become farmers themselves. Our Food Bank has not only a garden, but a flourishing farm supplying fresh produce to Food Bank customers as well as to other food banks in the South Seattle area. Home gardeners are adding edibles to their landscapes. We are all discovering the importance of locally and sustainably grown food here on our island.