Patrons will have to travel further to enjoy the Sammamish Farmers Market this year. The weekly market opened on June 3 and is located at the intersection of Sahalee Way and Highway 202. Geographically, this location is in unincorporated King County, and not within Sammamish city limits.
In prior years, the market enjoyed a central location right next to Sammamish City Hall. But a key decision to cancel all City-organized events, along with direct intervention by Mayor Karen Moran, prevented the market’s organizers from finding a location within the city.
This situation began unfolding on April 14 when the Sammamish City Council voted to cancel the farmers market, along with all other events on City property, through the end of August as a response to COVID-19 and its potential health risks.
The Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, which operates the farmers market, then started looking for an alternate location. At the end of April, the Chamber began actively discussing with Eastside Catholic School to host the market on its parking lot, according to Deborah Sogge, the CEO of the Chamber.
“We were within a few days of sending in the paperwork to the City of Sammamish for verification on a permit,” Sogge said.
Mayor Moran then called Gil Picciotto, the president of Eastside Catholic, and discouraged the school from hosting the market, according to email records provided by the City.
“Eastside Catholic received a call from the mayor who let us know that the City regrettably canceled the farmers market along with a number of other events in light of the COVID crisis,” Picciotto wrote in a draft public statement that he sent to Moran for review on May 13. “The mayor and city council feel that moving forward with a farmers market, even a social distanced farmers market, is not in the public interest and recommended we not move forward as hosts for the events. In order to be good partners with the City Eastside Catholic will follow the recommendations of the Mayor and City Council.”
On the same day, Eastside Catholic called Sogge at the Chamber and declined to host the farmers market.
When asked about her intervention call with Eastside Catholic, Moran said that it was Eastside Catholic that contacted the City first.
“I returned Eastside Catholic’s call,” Moran said in a statement. “They wanted to know the status of summer events in the City during COVID-19, including the farmers market. I explained that we cancelled all summer events due to the pandemic, as our #1 priority is public safety.”
The Chamber ended up moving the farmers market to Red Barn Farm, located right outside of the City’s jurisdiction, allowing them to operate without the need to apply for a permit.
“It was obvious the mayor didn’t want the farmers market in the City of Sammamish, so I had to move it outside,” Sogge said.
Besides the new location, the Sammamish Farmers Market has adopted COVID-19 safety measures, including no-touch purchasing, capacity limits and hand sanitizing stations.
For those on the south side of Sammamish, driving to the northern end of Sahalee Way may be a bit far. As an alternative, the weekly Issaquah Farmer’s Market opened on Saturday, and has a convenient, central location at Pickering Barn.