Successful farmers market season comes to an end
The 2016 farmers market season in St. Lawrence County wrapped up at the end of October and despite the challenges posed by this summer's drought was a success for local farmers and customers.
GardenShare reports that sales to people using their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) benefits at the farmers markets increased by 70% for the 2016 season as compared to 2015. $6,536 in SNAP benefits were spent at the five farmers markets in St. Lawrence County this year, compared to $3,834 last year.
In addition to the actual SNAP sales, GardenShare was able to double the value of SNAP purchases, with a combination of a grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, donations from individuals, and the Food Bank of Central New York's CNY Health Bucks program.
"This is a win for all," said Gloria McAdam, executive director of GardenShare. "For low-income families, purchasing fresh, locally grown food can be a challenge because often less healthy foods are also less expensive. As a result, families make food choices based on their limited budgets rather than nutrition. The work to provide access to fresh food at the farmers markets is important to families who receive SNAP benefits to improve their diets and health. It's also important to local farmers who benefit from these additional sales. And all of these funds stayed in our local economy, rather than with a chain store."
Research by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that each $5 of SNAP benefits generates nearly twice that amount in economic activity in the local economy, as the farmer that accepts SNAP benefits uses those funds to purchase seed, equipment, and other supplies for the family's farm or household (http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/bc_benefits.pdf).
Success at the markets was also reported in season-end surveys of both farmers and market customers. Some local farmers reported increases in their sales ranging from 20 to 50%. Anonymous customer surveys at the farmers market generated a number of positive responses, including:
• "I never come to the market that I do not see someone I know but might not see often. It is a pleasure to get to know the farmers and experience the interconnectedness of our community."
• "Speaking with the farmers is very helpful. I learn more about nutritional factors and how to prepare the food. I like the general sense of community created."
GardenShare has worked to end hunger and strengthen our local food system since 1996. Originally formed as a network of gardeners sharing their extra harvest with local food pantries, GardenShare has since embraced a larger vision for the region, which is summarized in the slogan, "Healthy Food, Healthy Farms, Everybody Eats." The organization's work to help low-income people access fresh, locally grown food and to strengthen the food system are designed to move the community toward GardenShare's mission - to solve the problem of hunger in St. Lawrence County through policy advocacy work and by strengthening the food system to benefit all County residents.
November 9, 2016