Bilan Aden and Hamdi Abdulle face the camera, masked, with a bouquet of flowers between them, held by Aden

The Delridge Farmers Market Offers Culturally Relevant Food and BIPOC Vendors

by Amanda Ong

The Delridge Farmers Market, a BIPOC-centered farmers market in South Seattle, has returned for its second year with even more vendors and greater steps toward food accessibility.

“This is essentially a Black and Indigenous market, or Black and Brown or BIPOC market,” Daniel Horst, the farmers market and food access manager, said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “We prioritize vendors of color from all different parts of the world.” 

The market is run by African Community Housing & Development (ACHD). Its associate director and co-founder of the market, Bilan Aden, told the Emerald that last year was the market’s pilot project year. This year, ACHD has been able to increase the frequency of the market from once to twice a month, the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from May through October. It also has new vendors, including farms, craft-based businesses, body product businesses, and prepared food vendors. 

“This market is meant to be sort of a food-security market,” Horst said. “Delridge is one of the few food apartheid zones in Seattle, meaning there’s no grocery store within about a mile radius of the center of the neighborhood.”

Adama Jammeh of Afella Jollof Catering serves food at the farmers market
Adama Jammeh (left) of Afella Jollof Catering at last year’s Delridge Farmers Market. Afella Jollof Catering serves Senegambian cuisine, like fish and chicken yassa. (Photo: Maximilian Golub)

Horst says that while many people are familiar with the term “food desert,” “food apartheid zone” is a more intentional term that makes a clear distinction that these areas are planned, engineered, and created through systems of oppression like redlining to create environmental and food racism. Rather than a naturally occurring desert devoid of food, these areas are food-inaccessible because of apartheid practices. 

But the Delridge Farmers Market aims to amend that. “We are always looking for innovative ways to think about how we get [our community] out of intergenerational poverty,” Aden said. “This program is super relevant and important, because we’re talking about nutrition, we’re talking about healthy and culturally relevant foods. And we’re also talking about how [can] we build equity and support small businesses. … We are not just consumers, but we’re also developers, and we are also creators, and we are also business owners.”

Aden says the idea for the farmers market grew from her work during graduate school in outdoor education. There, she worked with youth to garden and discuss food access and food justice. This translated to one of ACHD’s first programs, Grow Together, a youth education project in urban farming and food justice. In one of their workshops, they found that one of the best ways to solve food access issues in a food apartheid zone is to have a farmers market. 

“The community members also realized farmers markets … they’re actually too far for them to go to, they’re unaffordable for them, and it’s also not as inclusive, it’s very White-led,” Aden said. “They don’t see themselves reflected in the food that’s being sold there. It’s not very culturally relevant to them. And so they wanted to have a farmers market that reflected their culture. They wanted more affordable fresh produce. And so we created the Farmers Market.”

The Delridge Farmers Market also provided a way to fight social isolation after lockdown by bringing community members together. ACHD sought vendors of color, specifically of African descent, to sell their goods. Many of its vendors come from South Seattle and south King County, like Afella Jollof, Chef Jalissa, The Apple Guy, Samra Henna, and Horseneck Farm

It has also radically supported its vendors by guaranteeing their sales: ACHD buys out all of the vendors’ surplus fresh produce at the end of the day. It then distributes it to community members, specifically the seniors served at ACHD. 

To ensure the food is accessible across all income spectrums, it also hosts several programs, including food vouchers for families who are ineligible for SNAP and are food insecure. The market also hosts a free produce, grab-and-go bag program, offering a bag of local organic produce to anyone who attends the market, with no questions asked. It also offers $5 vouchers for kids to use to buy produce, to teach children growing up in a food apartheid zone to exercise agency around their food choices. 

Free bags of produce on a table at the Delridge Farmers Market
The Delridge Farmers Market has a grab-and-go bag program, offering a free bag of local organic produce to anyone who attends, no questions asked. (Photo: Maximilian Golub)

“We want to make sure that the systems that we’re creating don’t have a bunch of hoops that people need to jump through and a bunch of bureaucracy to receive food,” Horst said. “Part of the intention of the market has [been] to be sort of an incubator space for these very small starting businesses who really probably haven’t sold at a farmers market before. … So we’re trying to, you know, provide the tools and the financial support necessary to help these businesses kind of graduate to the next level of their enterprise.”

ACHD doesn’t charge any fees to its vendors as well, something common at almost all farmers markets. ACHD also provides low-cost equipment rentals of tents, tables, chairs, etc., and its volunteers help with setup. Horst himself tries to counsel vendors on how to showcase branding and eventually expand their businesses, particularly given his own background in the food industry.

The Delridge Farmers Market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from May through October. It is always looking for new volunteers and vendors. You can apply to volunteer and apply to become a vendor.

Visit the Delridge Farmers Market at Hope Academy, 9421 18th Ave. SW.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: Associate Director Bilan Aden (left) and Executive Director Hamdi Abdulle (right) of African Community Housing and Development (ACHD) at the Delridge Farmers Market last year. (Photo: Maximilian Golub)

Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. 
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. 
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!