2015 Farmers Market SNAP Support Grantees

Some very exciting projects in here. Congratulations to all of the successful organizations.

As approved by Congress in the President’s FY 2014 budget request for FNS (The Food and Nutrition Service: 2014, Explanatory Notes), these funds are intended to support “the participation of farmers’ markets in SNAP by providing equipment and support grants to new markets and those currently participating in the program.” The goals of the FMSSG program are to increase SNAP accessibility and participation at farmers’ markets, and support the establishment, expansion, and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at farmers’ markets. This is a new program, which may continue in subsequent years.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Link to original RFA

Last Published: 10/02/2015
  1. Plant Chicago, NFP – Ensuring SNAP Success at Plant Chicago’s Farmers Market
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $15,379
    Plant Chicago’s Ensuring SNAP Success project, will improve SNAP programming in the urban center of Chicago, IL by increasing SNAP-customers at the organization’s farmers market through community, bi-lingual outreach and a local marketing campaign.  Through this project the SNAP program at the market will expand to include a volunteer program for weekdays and weekends.  Plant Chicago intends to increase SNAP participation at their market by over 25% for 2017.
  2. Trust for Conservation Innovation – Making Farmers Market Purchases a SNAP in Northern California
    San Francisco, CA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $123,068
    The Making Farmers Market Purchases a SNAP in Northern California project will support staffing for the SNAP at eight small-scale farmers markets in Northern California that currently struggle to provide SNAP on a regular basis. Through this project, these markets will receive EBT technical training and assistance.  Additionally, the project will increase SNAP redemptions at farmers markets through community outreach and promotion and develop best practices to ensure growth and sustainability.
  3. Morgantown Farmers’ Market Growers Association – Expanding a Targeted SNAP Program to Demographically-Diverse Member Markets
    Morgantown, WV
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $36,599
    Through the FMSSG, the Morgantown Farmers’ Market Growers Association will hire an EBT coordinator to manage the growing SNAP at two farmers markets and increase redemptions by engaging in outreach specifically targeted to SNAP-participants in urban food-desert of West Virginia.  The Association will also identify best practices that can be incorporated into a long-term plan for the SNAP at other markets throughout West Virginia.
  4. Growing Places Indy, Inc. – Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) “Good Eating Is a SNAP, All Winter Long”
    Indianapolis, IN
    Promise Zone
    Estimated Federal Funding: $58,740
    The Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) “Good Eating Is a SNAP, All Winter Long” program will increase access to SNAP by hiring a dedicated EBT manager that will also coordinate educational demonstrations and outreach materials.  This staff member will provide farmer vendors with needed training and technical support. These activities will help to increase the consumption of farmers market products by SNAP customers and give farmers the tools they need to increase SNAP redemptions and build their businesses.
  5. Homefull – Growing SNAP Success with Southwest Ohio Farmers’ Markets
    Montgomery, OH
    Estimated Federal Funding: $113,258
    Through Growing SNAP Success with Southwest Ohio Farmers’ Markets, Homefull will reach a three-county area to bolster and increase SNAP at over fifteen local farmers markets and promote SNAP availability at the participating markets.  Homefull will achieve this through EBT training and technical assistance, outreach, EBT staffing, and market ambassadors.  The project plans to double the number and dollar value of SNAP transactions at southwest Ohio farmers markets.
  6. The Experimental Station-6100 Blackstone –  EBT Support and Outreach For Illinois Farmers Markets and SNAP Clientele
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Over a two-year project, the Experimental Station will provide EBT support to Illinois farmers markets accepting SNAP through EBT/SNAP consulting, technical support and establishing an online community of EBT support to Illinois farmers markets.  This project will also create and disseminate outreach materials and television advertisements, to create greater awareness of the availability of SNAP at Illinois farmers markets. The Experimental Station aims to double SNAP sales at markets throughout Illinois during the life of this project.
  7. Houston Department of Health and Human Services – Expanding Opportunity for Use of SNAP at Houston Farmers Markets
    Houston, TX
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Houston Department of Health and Human Services through the Expanding Opportunity for Use of SNAP at Houston Farmers’ Markets project will provide staff and EBT technical support and promotional activities related to the expansion of SNAP acceptance at Houston farmers markets.  Outreach and promotional activities will be implemented in partnership with local community organizations to increase the number of farmers markets accepting SNAP to six.  The project aims to increase the number of SNAP transactions at farmers markets within the City of Houston to 8,980 by 2018.
  8. Missouri Farmers Market Association – Growing SNAP at Farmers Markets in Missouri
    Webb City, Missouri
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $73,160
    The Missouri Farmers Market Association will expand the SNAP at ten farmers markets throughout Missouri. SNAP-expansion will occur through a variety of marketing tools tailored to the individual market and its SNAP-customers.  The marketing tools range from radio advertising to cooking demonstrations, to banners, and brochures, all designed to best reach local SNAP-participants.
  9. Hamakua Harvest, Inc. – Hamakua Harvest Farmers’ Market SNAP/EBT Expansion Program
    Honokaa, HI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $137,174
    The Hamakua Harvest Farmers’ Market SNAP/EBT Expansion Program will support the newly-authorized farmers market in Honokaa, HI gain the support it needs to thrive. The funds will be used to promote and expand the SNAP through staffing an EBT manager, purchasing SNAP supplies, training for EBT market vendors, and outreach to SNAP-recipients.  Hamakua Harvest anticipates the impact of the project to include 36 vendors to be trained to accept SNAP.
  10. North Union Farmers Market – Increasing SNAP Benefit Use at North Union’s Cleveland Markets through Educational Outreach and Targeted Marketing
    Cleveland, OH
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $59,302
    North Union Farmers Market will strengthen their SNAP by hiring a part-time educational coordinator who will be responsible for expanding the market’s outreach programs and build relationships with community partners that work with SNAP-clients. The expanded outreach programs will include cooking demonstrations, family-friendly educational activities and workshops on food preservation.  The North Union Farmers Market will also implement a marketing program using print and digital media and radio advertisements.  The anticipated impact of the project is an increase in redemptions by 10%.
  11. Broad Street Events, INC. – Spotlight on Snap, Raising SNAP Awareness in Rural Michigan
    Chesaning, Michigan
    Estimated Federal Funding: $17,480
    The project Spotlight on SNAP will effectively market the SNAP to surrounding SNAP-residents and increase the amount of SNAP users at the Downtown Chesaning Market.  Funding will provide the needs to expand outreach and effectively promote SNAP through market activities, newspaper articles, television commercials, and outreach events.  Broad Street Events will partners with many local organizations and schools with high populations of SNAP-recipients.
  12. Village of Park Forest – Park Forest Farmers’ Market EBT Program
    Park Forest, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $16,975
    The Park Forest Farmers’ Market EBT Program will increase SNAP benefit redemption at the Park Forest Farmers Market by hiring an EBT manager who will administer the program, plan and implement outreach strategies for informing SNAP participants of their ability to use benefits at the farmers market, and conduct trainings for farmer-producers new to the market on participation in the EBT program.  By expanding the EBT program, the market can continue to involve more vendors and offer greater varieties of products available to SNAP customers.
  13. Harvest Home Farmer’s Market – Farm Fresh for Every Body
    New York, NY
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Through 19 different farmers markets in food-deserts around New York, Harvest Home will increase the number of SNAP transactions processed at their farmers markets, increase the number of farmers and vendors who serve SNAP recipients, and broaden their reach into the surrounding communities. Harvest Hands will achieve these goals by creating culturally and linguistically appropriate promotional materials to reach SNAP-recipients, improve the technology needed to process SNAP transactions on-site and in real time, and conduct ongoing vendor SNAP recruitment for farmer producers.
  14. Everyone’s Harvest – Monterey County SNAP Initiative
    Marina, CA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $109,716
    Everyone’s Harvest will double its annual SNAP redemptions and grow its SNAP customer base by 70% by using a customer relationship management database and outreach to SNAP market shoppers.  The organization will achieve this by engaging Spanish-speaking community members in producing a Spanish-language promotional video focused on SNAP and creating a mailing and email outreach campaign.
  15. Eastern Market Corporation – Eastern Market: Detroit’s SNAP Food Security Blanket
    Detroit, MI
    Strong Cities Strong Communities
    Estimated Federal Funding: $249,663
    The Eastern Market: Detroit’s SNAP Food Security Blanket program will provide resources for program support staff, consulting fees, and supplies to allow for significant program improvements through increased operational efficiencies and greater program effectiveness.  This will be achieved by discontinuing the use of a paper-based system and expanding the SNAP program to an additional market.
  16. Friends of the Rochester Public Market, Inc. – Greater Rochester Farmers’ Market SNAP Collaborative
    Rochester, NY
    Estimated Federal Funding: $178,902
    Through the Greater Rochester Farmers’ Market SNAP Collaborative project the Friends of the Rochester Public Market will implement a community-wide marketing campaign that increases awareness of SNAP use at regional farmers markets.  Additionally funds will be used to develop a new SNAP Token Center at the Public Market and staff salaries for SNAP related activities
  17. Fresh Approach – SNAP Training and Outreach for Farmers’ Markets in San Francisco Bay Area Counties
    Concord, CA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $190,951
    Fresh Approach will use funds to perform SNAP data collection, build a network of farmers market stakeholders, create and distribute bi-lingual marketing material, produce outreach events, create a best practices manual for farmers markets to utilize setting up a SNAP program, and train farmers market staff on SNAP program implementation.
  18. Glenville State College Research Corporation – Expansion of Acceptance of SNAP at the Gilmer County Farmers’ Market: Population of low income households in a food desert
    Glenville, WV
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $42,020
    This project will use funds to design and distribute educational posters and handouts, create and execute an extensive marketing campaign including TV and radio ads, provide salary for an EBT operator and manager, and train volunteers and market staff on SNAP procedures.
  19. Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board – From the Ground Up: Expand and Sustain SNAP at Farmers Markets
    Salamanca, NY
    Estimated Federal Funding: $99,813
    From the Ground Up: Expand and Sustain SNAP at Farmers Markets project will provide research and data analysis, technical assistance, educational training, volunteer training, and capacity building strategies to farmers market managers, and perform outreach to SNAP clients, develop curriculum and training materials for the Southern Tier West Regional Farmers Market Network.
  20. City of Independence – Increasing SNAP Awareness and Utilization at Independence Farmers’ and Craft Market
    Independence, MO
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $144,976|
    The City of Independence will use FMSSG funds to design and implement a marketing plan for the Independence Farmers market through movie, billboard, local print and bus advertisements, additionally banners and other printed advertising material will be used at the farmers market and distributed throughout the community.  City staff will also perform outreach and educational events in order to increase redemptions at the farmers market due to higher community awareness of SNAP at the farmers market.
  21. Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. –  Increasing the Capacity of Fresh Access Bucks in Florida
    Gainesville, FL
    FINI & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Increasing the Capacity of Fresh Access Bucks in Florida project will use FMSSG funds to pay personnel for SNAP administration, organization to provide resources, and technical assistance to farmers market managers.  The project will also develop strategic branding and promotional materials for FL farmers markets and promote SNAP at markets through regular press releases, advertising on the radio, in newspapers, on public transit, on electric bills in each county, direct mailings, and through social media.
  22. Boulder County Public Health – Building and Growing Regional Capacity for SNAP at Farmers’ Markets in Colorado’s Front Range
    Boulder, CO
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $231,460
    The Boulder County Public Health will use funds to staff a farmers market SNAP coordinator, conduct focus groups on the barriers to accessing farmers markets, develop and implement an outreach plan, train farmers and market managers on managing a SNAP program, hire bi-lingual staff for markets, and create communication tools to distribute best practices to farmers markets in the county.
  23. Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project – Increasing SNAP at NC Farmers Markets
    Asheville, NC
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $164,625
    Through the Increasing SNAP at NC Farmers Markets project, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will conduct outreach and promotion to and collaboration with local agencies on SNAP at farmers markets, conduct trainings for market managers and farmers on how to increase SNAP redemptions at markets, evaluate community needs through research and surveys, and provide technical assistance to market managers following their initial training.
  24. The Food Trust – Making Fresh Food a SNAP: Increasing ACCESS Sales at Food Trust Farmers’ Markets
    Philadelphia, PA
    Promise Zone, FINI, Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $150,103
    The Food Trust will conduct focus groups, staff EBT operation at markets, implement promotional events around SNAP, develop marketing plan to educate SNAP-clients on EBT at farmers markets, develop bi-lingual marketing and educational materials, train market managers on SNAP program management, and collaborate with local partners.
  25. Hub City Farmers’ Market – Expanding South Carolina’s SNAP Use at Farmers Markets
    Spartanburg, SC
    Strike Force State
    Federal Funding: $247,100
    This project seeks to create a market model that can serve as an inspiration to markets across the state, alleviate market and user barriers, and help municipalities understand the importance of supporting SNAP in markets they run. Hub City Farmers’ Market of Spartanburg will work with Eat Smart Move More South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities to develop a set of best practices to help mentor two markets in key areas of the State.
  26. El Dorado County Trails Farm Association – Improvement and Expansion of EDC Farm Trails Association Farmers’ Market SNAP Program
    Placerville, CA
    Federal Funding: $16,057
    The project’s main goal is to boost public awareness of farmers’ market accepting SNAP benefits.  Applicant plans to partner with the Health and Human Services Department and El Dorado CNAP to conduct outreach along with media blitz and raise awareness about the program.
  27. Feed the Hunger Foundation – SNAP at Honolulu Farmers Market
    San Francisco, CA/Honolulu, HI
    Federal Funding: $243,450
    The plan for this project includes outreach to the following communities: 1) news outlets engaging communities whose first language is not English: Samoan, Tongan, Chuukese, Tagalog, Ilocano, Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Japanese; 2) Military news at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam; 3) University of Hawaii system (including community and adult education outreach colleges). 4) Coordinating with other SNAP –accessible farmers markets to collaborate on promotion.
  28. Ecology Center – California Farmers’ Market EBT Program
    Alameda, CA
    Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2)
    Federal Funding: $242,828
    The project’s aims to support the Ecology Center’s CA Farmers Market EBT program and will: (1) reach out to the 350 CA farmers’ markets that do not yet offer SNAP access with a compelling Case Statement on the benefits of accepting SNAP; (2) provide comprehensive technical assistance, training, shopper outreach materials, scrip, and systems to help a minimum of 120 of those markets add SNAP access; (3) update, improve, and maintain FMfinder.org, the Ecology Center’s website and mobile site designed to helps SNAP shoppers easily find up-to-the-minute information on CA farmers’ markets where they can use their benefits; (4) work with the Departments of Social Services in Los Angeles and Alameda Counties to mail over 1.3M inserts to 632,205 SNAP in order to educate them about the availability of SNAP programs at local farmers’ markets and direct the shoppers to FMfinder.org to find locations and hours of operation; and (5) through these combined efforts, increase SNAP sales at CA Farmers’ Markets by $1.23M (a 33% increase over 2014) by the end of the grant term.
  29. Kokomo Farmers Market Corp – SNAP To Kokomo Farmers’ Market: a targeted marketing, outreach and expansion project to increase SNAP user participation and benefits use at the KDFM
    Kokomo, IN
    Federal Funding: $248,770
    The project goals are to (1) increase SNAP client accessibility and participation at the Kokomo Downtown Farmers Market (KDFM) through extended hours, targeted outreach and expanded marketing, to (2) improve systems for SNAP transactions, recording, and reporting, and to (3) support SNAP recipients with cooking and preserving demonstrations at various outreach locations.
  30. Sustainable Farms & Communities, Inc. – Expanding SNAP Participation in Boone County, Missouri
    Columbia, MO
    Estimated Federal Funding:  $146,983
    Expanding SNAP Participation in Boone County, Missouri project will provide staff for EBT market management, including record keeping, token management and educational activities.  Also, the project will develop a comprehensive marketing and community outreach plan, and healthy cooking and living demonstrations.
  31. Health Education Council – Sacramento Region CalFresh Market Expansion: Connecting Families to Farmers
    West Sacramento, CA
    Promise Zone & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $240,429
    This project will provide technical training and support to SNAP market managers, the funds will also provide EBT staffing for markets, outreach to SNAP customers at markets, marketing material, and regional meetings and trainings.
  32. Washington State University – Skagit Farmers Market Flash
    Pullman, WA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Washington State University will implement the Skagit Farmers Market Flash project through organizing and producing market outreach events, increase access to farmers markets for seniors, develop and roll-out a marketing campaign, and provide EBT training and technical assistance for farmers market managers.
  33. Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets – Massachusetts SNAP Support Project
    Waltham, MA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Massachusetts SNAP Support Project will provide SNAP operating support to farmers market managers across Massachusetts; awarding sub-grants for time spent operating SNAP/EBT machines at market, SNAP accounting, vendor payments, reporting, and performing outreach to SNAP participants, as well as purchasing scrip and accounting software necessary for SNAP/EBT.
  34. Dianne’s Call – Optimizing Peoples’ Everyday Nutritional (OPEN) Path to Healthier Lifestyles
    Sumter, SC
    Strike Force State & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $229,589
    Dianne’s call with expand the SNAP program at local farmers markets through training, conducting hands-on cooking classes, provide educational material for SNAP at farmers markets and implement health and behavior promotional events.
  35. Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership, Inc. – Reaching Diverse Populations through SNAP at the Farmers Market
    Fond du Lac, WI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $28,471
    This project will provide market managers and farmer EBT trainings, SNAP community outreach, extensive marketing campaign to SNAP-clients, creation of promotional videos, language translation for marketing materials, market and SNAP tours for clients, educational and cooking demonstrations, and additional SNAP signage.
  36. Village of Farwell – Farwell Farmer’s Market SNAP Project|
    Farwell, MI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $89,160
    The Farwell Farmer’s Market SNAP Project will provide staff for the farmers market, train vendors on EBT use, create marketing materials, implement marketing plan, and a social media campaign.
  37. Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets – Building a SNAP Support System for Maine Farmers’ Markets
    Pittsfield, ME
    Estimated Federal Funding: $249,677
    The Main Federation of Farmers’ Markets will use funds to provide training for market managers and farmers on EBT, provide support and technical assistance for local farmers markets, produce and utilize SNAP-Farmers Market communication tools, update EBT training manual, implement a branding campaign in conjunction with FINI, and develop and train market liaisons.
  38. Sankofa Safe Child Initiative – Sankofa Seniors Farmer’s Market Project
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $28,616
    The Sankofa Seniors Farmer’s Market Project will use funds to do community outreach, cooking demonstrations and other educational sessions targeted toward seniors, and increase access to farmers market for seniors.
  39. Farm Fresh Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Farmers Market SNAP Network
    Pawtucket, RI
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Farm Fresh Rhode Island will develop and implement extensive marketing plan focusing on SNAP at farmers markets and provide financial support to local farmers markets to maintain their EBT programs.
  40. Billings Forge Community Works, Inc. – More SNAP: Local Vegetables and Fruit for Hartford Tables
    Hartford, CT
    Promise Zone
    Estimated Federal Funding: $198,776
    The More SNAP: Local Vegetables and Fruit for Hartford Tables project will involve rolling-out promotional plan for SNAP at farmers markets, which includes various advertisements, produce a farmers market toolkit, and train market managers and farmers on EBT.
  41. CEN-TEX Certified Development Corporation – Supporting SNAP redemption at Mercado O’liva Farmer’s Markets in San Antonio
    Austin, TX
    Strike Force State, Promise Zone & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $88,662
    This project will provide EBT staffing and administration for the Mercado O’liva Farmers Markets. Additionally the project will implement social media promotion and an advertisement campaign consisting of print, radio and TV and CEN-TEX will hold cooking demonstrations targeted to SNAP-clients at markets.
  42. Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture – Good Food For All – Introducing SNAP at Authentically Ajo Farmers Market
    Ajo, AZ
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $223,530
    The Good Food for All project will expand and support the SNAP/EBT program at the Ajo Farmers Market, design and implement standard practices, provide training on EBT for market vendors and volunteers meeting the needs of SNAP-clients in a poor rural area.
  43. Council on the Environment, Inc. (GrowNYC) – Branding and Advertising to Boost SNAP Sales at Greenmarket
    New York, NY
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $186,335
    GrowNYC will create a branding and advertising campaign that promotes SNAP acceptance at Greenmarkets throughout the city and purchase marketing materials, such as banners, flyers, canopies, etc., based on the campaign.
  44. The Gleaning Network of Texas (GROW North Texas) – Expanding SNAP at Farmers Markets in Dallas
    Dallas, TX
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $230,230
    The Gleaning Network of Texas will use FMSSG funds to hire market staff for four seasonal markets to run SNAP programs, provide technical EBT assistance to farmers, purchase SNAP tokens, and implement and outreach plan.
  45. Corporation for Findlay Market – Get Fresh With Us
    Cincinnati, OH
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $37,932
    Get Fresh With Us will use funds to train interns to help manage EBT operations at farmers markets, provide community outreach for SNAP at farmers markets, give market tours for SNAP-clients, develop and distribute SNAP outreach materials, and hold cooking demonstrations at markets in the area.
  46. Gloria Tu Gilbert – Westford Farmers Market SNAP 2015-2017: Sustainable Incentive
    Westford, MA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $27,709
    The Westford Farmers Market Project will provide staff for operating the SNAP program at the farmers market, training for EBT staff, and marketing SNAP at the farmers market and throughout the community, and supplies needed to operate a SNAP program.
  47. Main Street Monroe, Inc. – Enhancement of SNAP Accessibility and Participation at Main Street Monroe Farmers Market
    Monroe, WI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $179,051
    This project will collaborate with community partners to implement community outreach promoting SNAP acceptance at the Main Street Monroe Farmers Market, develop a transportation plan to distribute to SNAP-clients helping them overcome transportation barriers, establish procedures for operating EBT at the market, and provide training to vendors to operate EBT.
  48. Sustainable Food Center – Central Texas Farmers’ Market SNAP Expansion
    Austin, TX
    Strike Force State & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $147,210
    This project will hire staff for running EBT at markets, develop a Neighborhood Farm Market Startup Guide and training materials, train market managers and vendors on EBT management, provide technical assistance to farmers markets, and provide community outreach.
  49. Fuller Park Community Development Corporation – Eden Place Farmers’ Markets SNAP Outreach
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $111,418
    The Eden’s Place Project will develop outreach and marketing materials, targeted outreach to seniors on SNAP, on-site educational demonstrations at the market, host informational and training workshops on managing EBT at markets, and provide technical assistance to market managers and farmers on EBT.
  50. Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) – Growing EBT Access and Capacity at Vermont’s Farmers Markets
    Richmond, VT
    Estimated Federal Funding: $247,048
    This project will implement a marketing campaign using direct mailings, financial and technical support for area farmers markets, provide outreach and education to community partners on SNAP acceptance at farmers markets, and provide supplies to markets for successful EBT programs.
  51. The CSU, Chico Research Foundation – Increased EBT Participation in North Valley Farmers’ Markets
    Chico, CA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Chico Research Foundation will use funds to develop and implement a SNAP outreach and marketing campaign, purchase SNAP signage and other supplies, farmers market staff will be trained on SNAP operations and program strategies, host market tours to promote EBT use at the market, and cooking demonstrations will be held to encourage eating more fruits and vegetables.
  52. North Carolina State University – More In My Basket at the Market
    Wake, NC
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $248,530
    This project will provide outreach and information to community SNAP-clients, marketing materials published and distributed to SNAP-clients, provide market tours to SNAP-recipients, and cooking demonstrations.

Local Food Research & Development marketing specialist (research) posting; SHORT deadline!

Here is the link to the USDA jobs vacancy announcement for up to 3 agricultural marketing specialists (research) that was published this morning and closes next Thursday.  In addition, please note that applications are being capped after the first 40 received!!
https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/410631100

Big Data and Little Farmers Markets, Part 3

I used these examples in Part 2 of this series, but wanted to use them again for this post. To review:

Market A (which runs on Saturday morning downtown) is asked by its city to participate in a traffic planning project that will offer recommendations for car-free weekend days in the city center. The city will also review the requirement for parking lots in every new downtown development and possibly recalibrate where parking meters are located. To do this, the city will add driving strips to the areas around the market to count the cars and will monitor the meters and parking lot uses over the weekend. The market is being asked for its farmers to track their driving for all trips to the city and ask shoppers to do Dot Surveys on their driving experiences to the market on the weekend. Public transportation use will be gathered by university students.

Market B is partnering with an agricultural organization and other environmental organizations to measure the level of knowledge and awareness about farming in the greater metropolitan area. For one summer month, the market and other organizations will ask their supporters and farmers to use the hashtag #Junefarminfo on social media to share any news about markets, farm visits, gardening data or any other seasonal agricultural news.

Market C is working with its Main Street stores to understand shopping patterns by gathering data on average sales for credit and debit users. The Chamber of Commerce will also set up observation stations at key intersections to monitor Main Street shopper behavior such as where they congregate.

Market D has a grant with a health care corporation to offer incentives and will ask those voucher users to track their personal health care stats and their purchase and consumption of fresh foods. The users will get digital tools such as cameras to record their meals, voice recorders to record their children’s opinions about the menus (to upload on an online log) with their health stats such as BP, exercise regimen. That data will be compared to the larger Census population.

So all those ideas show how markets and their partners might be able to begin to use the world of Big Data. In those examples, one can see how the market benefits from having data that is (mostly) collected without a lot of work on the market’s part and yet is useful for them and for the larger community that the market also serves.

However, one of the best ways that markets can benefit from Big Data is slightly closer to home and even more useful to the stability and growth of the market itself. That is: to analyze and map the networks that markets foster and maintain, which is also known as network theory.
Network theory is a relatively new science that rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s and is about exploring and defining the relationships that a person or a community has and how, through their influence, their behavior is altered. What’s especially exciting about this work is that it combines many disciplines from mathematics to economics to social sciences.

A social network perspective can mean that data about relationships between the individuals can be as useful as the data about individuals themselves. Some people talk about this work in terms of strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are the close relationships that we use with greater frequency and offer support and weak ties are those acquaintances who offer new information and connect us to other networks. The key is that in order to really understand a network, it is important to analyze the behavior of any member of the network in relation to other members action. This has a lot to do with incentives, which is obviously something markets have a lot of interest in.

From the book Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World. By David Easley and Jon Kleinberg. Cambridge University Press, 2010. Complete preprint on-line at http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/networks-book/

From the book Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World.
By David Easley and Jon Kleinberg. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Complete preprint on-line at http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/networks-book/

From the foodsystemsnetwork.org website

From the foodsystemsnetwork.org website

network analysis

network analysis

I could go on and on about different theories and updates and critiques on these ideas, but the point to make here is this is science that is so very useful to the type of networks that food systems are propagating. Almost all of the work that farmers markets do rely on network theory without directly ascribing to it.

Think about a typical market day: a market could map each vendors booth to understand what people come to each table, using Dot Surveys or intercept surveys. That data could assist the vendor and the market. The market will benefit in knowing which are the anchor vendors of the market, which vendors constantly attract new shoppers, which vendors share shoppers etc. The market could also find out who among their shoppers bring information and ideas into the market and who carrries them out to the larger world from the market. All of this data would be mapped visually and would allow the market to be strategic with its efforts, connecting the appropriate type of shoppers to the vendors, expanding the product list for the shoppers likely to purchase new goods and so on.

Network theory would be quite beneficial to markets in their work to expand the reach to benefit program users and in the use of incentives. Since these market pilots began around 2005/2006, it has been a struggle to understand how to create a regular, return user of markets among those who have many barriers to adding this style of health and civic engagement. Those early markets created campaigns designed to offer the multiple and unique benefits of markets as a reason for benefit program shoppers to spend their few dollars there. Those markets also worked to reduce the barriers whenever possible by working with agencies on providing shuttles, offering activities for children while shopping, and adding non-traditional hours and locations for markets. Those efforts in New York, Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Louisiana (among others) were positive but the early results were very small, attracting only a few of the shoppers desired. When the outcomes were analyzed by those organizations, it seemed that a few issues were cropping up again and again:
1. The agency that distributed the news of these market programs didn’t understand markets or did not have a relationship of trust with their clients that encouraged introduction of new ideas or acceptance of advice in changing their habits.
2. The market itself was not ready to welcome new benefit program shoppers- too few items were available or the market was not always welcoming to new shoppers who required extra steps and new payment systems.
3. Targeting the right group of “early adopters” among the large benefit program shopping base was impossible to decipher.
4. Some barriers remained and were too large for markets alone to address (lack of transportation or distance for example).
4. Finding the time for staff to do all of that work.

Over time, markets did their best to address these concerns, which has led to the expansion of these systems into every state and a combined impact in the millions for SNAP purchases at markets alone. The cash incentives assisted a great deal, especially with #2 and #4. However, this work would be made so much easier and the impact so much larger if network theory was applied.
Consider:
Market A is going to add a centralized card processing system and has funds to offer a cash incentive. But how to spend it? And how to prepare the market for the program?

If the market joined forces with a public health agency and a social science research team from a nearby university, it might begin by mapping the networks in that market to understand the strong and weak ties it contains as well as the structural holes in its network. It might find out that its vendors attract few new shoppers regularly or that the market’s staff is not connected to many outside actors in the larger network, thereby reducing the chance for information to flow.
It might also see that younger shoppers are not coming to the market and therefore conclude that focusing its efforts on attracting older benefit program shoppers (especially at first) might be a strategic move. If the market has a great many low-income shoppers using FMNP coupons already, the mapping of those shoppers may offer much data about how the market supports benefit program shoppers already and how it might expand with an audience already at market
The public health agency might do the same mapping for the agencies that are meant to offer the news of the market’s program. That mapping might find certain agencies or centers are better at introducing new ideas or have a population that is aligned already with the market’s demographic and therefore likely to feel welcomed.

As for incentives, what markets and their partners routinely tell me is more money is not always the answer. Not knowing what is expected from the use of the incentives or how to reach the best audience for that incentive is exhausting them or at least, puzzling them.
If markets knew their networks and knew where the holes were, they could use their incentive dollars much more efficiently and run their markets without burning out their staff or partners.
They might offer different incentives for their different locations, based on the barriers or offerings for each location. (They may also offer incentives to their vendors to test out new crops.)
If connectors are seen in large numbers in a market, then a “bring a friend” incentive might be offered, or if the mapping shows a large number of families entering the system in that area, then an incentive for a family level shopping experience may be useful.
One of the most important hypotheses that markets should use in their incentive strategy is how can they create a regular shopper through the use of the incentive. Of course, it is not the only hypothesis for a market; a large flagship market might identify their role as introducing new shoppers to their markets every month and use their funds to do just that. But for many markets with limited staff and small populations in and around the market, a never-ending cycle of new shoppers coming in for a few months and then not returning may not be the most efficient way to spend those dollars or their time. So this is also where network theory could be helpful.
By asking those using their EBT card to tell in detail where and how they heard about the program and by also tracking the number of visits they have after their introduction, we could begin to see which introductions work the best. Or by asking a small group of new EBT shoppers to be members of a long-term shopping focus group to track what happens during their visit (how many vendors they purchase from and how long they stay) and after (see Market D example at the top), we could learn about what EBT shoppers in that area value in their market experience. We may also find out that the market has few long-term return shoppers from the EBT population or we may find out that connectors become easy to spot and therefore they can be rewarded when sharing information on the market’s behalf.
In all of these cases, it will be easier for the staff to know what to do and when to do it if they understand their networks both in and around the market.
And of course, mapping the larger food systems around the markets’ systems would be exciting and could move policy issues to action sooner and allow funding to be increased for initiatives to fill the holes found.

However markets do it, what seems necessary is to know specifically who is using markets and how and why they decided to begin to use them and to whom those folks are connected. Network theory can be the best and widest use of the world of Big Data, especially to accomplish what Farmers Market Coalition has set as their call to action: that markets are for everyone.

Some reading, if you are interested:

http://www.foodsystemnetworks.org

The Tipping Point

Click to access networks-book-ch03.pdf

Click to access 827.full.pdf

Click to access kadushin.pdf

Mississippi: the last stop of the spring season

The thing about being a market consultant is it has a very specific schedule each year: the spring is packed with calls and invitations to conferences and workshops. Lots of discussion about grant opportunities and best practices.
The summer is spent at at the desk, writing or researching on behalf of those who hire us.
The fall starts to bring more travel, usually more for large-scale (non-market) conferences as well as a scramble for assistance on projects that got sidelined or tangled over the summer.
The winter is when the big ideas are usually discussed, with colleagues asking for an ear or agreeing to read something. Some of those big ideas roll right into spring grant-writing season and the year begins again.
This year my spring travel started in Alabama, then to Oregon and Washington, March in Vermont, two spots in Illinois and this last spring trip was in the Magnolia State, right in my own backyard.
I live part of the time about 40 or so miles from the Mississippi line and of course, as a past manager of a set of markets in the biggest city in the region, I had farmers from Mississippi and from Alabama that came to vend, so I am quite familiar with what is happening there and have some ideas as to what could happen there.
When I was asked to speak again this year by MS Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), I said yes immediately. Partly because I like the folks at MDAC and partly because in order to have a real food system in my place, it must be regionally organized (which means MS too of course) and we are far from that reality. And of course, because as a national market advocate, I need to see and talk to as many markets as I can. Let me say that MDAC does an amazing job supporting every actor in the food system and any criticism I give about the lack of support should not be construed as being directed at MDAC. They do more with less than most other states I know. And that MDAC is a state agency devoted to the many, not the few; market organizers and community food system initiative leaders need their own champions too.

MDAC asked me to talk about EBT outreach and about measuring markets for whatever number of the 70 or so markets listed in the state showed up. I agreed, even though I knew that the EBT outreach was probably a little too forward of what the group needed, based on the answers to the survey we sent out.
The MS markets are a strange and wonderful hybrid-they have no independent state association of markets, which is typical of most the other Southern states.
The state does have an emerging sustainable ag network, thanks to some local people (Daniel Doyle for one) and the Wallace Center which offered early funding to create the entity.
The state has offered both farmers and markets free SNAP-only machines for the last few years, predating the new FNS marketlink.org farmer terminal system. Many of you know that I am not a fan of these systems being handed off to farmers quite yet, so I do view these hybrid systems with a jaundiced eye.
Some of their markets have a closer relationship to Main Street initiatives than many other states’s markets which means that they are included in larger municipal ideas of revitalization, which can be good and bad for a market. The Main Street movement is more viable in rural communities, using its energy on facade or street improvements and some event planning. So what I find among MS managers are great event planners and city/civic leaders, with a genuine interest in assisting their vendors, but with few ideas how to do just that. The newest trend there is for public health partnerships (of course) with funding increasing there tremendously since MS is usually at the lowest rung of most health stats, with Louisiana constantly battling it for last place. Even so, since many of the markets are quite entrepreneurial and “downtown-focused,” these public health partnerships have not yet found their sweet spot.

And since most of these markets are operating with such low capacity, and no one is advocating for them full-time, they have very little data on what they do well and little experience in analyzing how they did something well. EBT and FMNP for instance-what do they want from these programs? How do markets of 5 to 20 vendors build in capacity to offer a robust benefit program system without any resources or support? Interestingly, a workshop with information about market link and on becoming a SNAP retailer was held in a room at the other end of the center for MS farmers at the exact same time as the managers were in this room. I wish this had not been the case for many reasons, but most of all I have not found that creating silos of information within a system very useful.
As we were in the room, we heard about the successful FINI proposals, one of which is substantial and will involve MS markets. There was excitement, but there was also trepidation among the market organizers. Most of them do not run central EBT systems and so have very little contact with their benefit program shoppers and almost no idea where to find these folks or how to get them to come to their markets.
Adding cash incentives is great, but there has to also be money to build the systems at market and state level to change perceptions of local food and to lift the existing barriers or that money will just act as it was pushed through a sieve.
As I stood inside and outside after my talks, I was peppered with questions, most of which showed the lack of support these markets have:
Where do I find these USDA grants?
How do I get FMNP coupons at my market?
What amount should I raise for an incentive and how should I use it?
Who offers funds for staffing a market?
What is market link?
How do I get funds to advertise?

How do I get more local goods to more people as an organizer?
The agency directors (that serve benefit program shoppers) won’t even talk to me about my market- what should I do?

How can I measure my economic impact?

and this round of questions didn’t even bring up the whole set of issues present everywhere- how do get enough farmers and producers doing well enough to keep this system moving forward? How do we do this with other initiatives breathing down our neck, competing for funding and attention?

The number of new faces at this meeting is similar to many of the other states that I visit regularly and is an indication that we have yet to find a way to offer professional jobs as market managers, instead using the typical revolving door of entry-level work that exhausts producers and means that initiatives never fully engage or sustain; markets are full of pilots but few have moved those pilots to replicable programs with funding streams, experienced staff and policy changes arising from those lessons.
The beautiful thing is that the willingness and enthusiasm among these organizers is always high, even with the many closed doors and the lack of support available to them.
So, I finish my spring conference travel right where I started it: with markets feeling the pressures from partners to offer new programs, with internal communities asking for sustainable growth, with organizers managing this work while they are paid not at all or paid a pittance or doing the equivalent of 2-3 peoples workload. But I also finish it having heard loads of great ideas from organizers and with stories of successful pilots from the last few years that will be expanded or tested again.
So let’s hope that this year that we can move the dial a little bit over the summer and fall with a successful market season and then together can start to build the system we need come winter and spring.

Porch at the auditorium for the mkt meeting at the MS Ag and Forestry Museum

Porch at the auditorium for the mkt meeting at the MS Ag and Forestry Museum

View of MS Sustainable Ag Network's Victory Garden demonstration at the MS Ag Museum

View of MS Sustainable Ag Network’s Victory Garden demonstration at the MS Ag Museum

Are Farmers Market Sales Peaking? (NPR likes to say so)

Let me say first that I have only begun to read the report cited and that the authors have done some excellent research. The issue is really that outlets like NPR offer snappy headlines and a sound bite or two rather than the entire story. However, it is important that food system organizers communicate more data than that to their market community.

I’ll begin with one of the conclusions from the report:
• It is difficult to draw conclusions about the local economic impact of local foods systems because the existing literature has narrow geographic and market scope, making comparing studies complicated. Data necessary to conduct economic impact analyses are costly to obtain, and researchers have yet to agree on a standard way of accounting for the opportunity costs involved when local foods are produced and purchased or on a standard set of economic modeling assumptions. Many questions surrounding the economic impact of local foods remain unanswered and could be addressed by future research (e.g., Are local food systems good for the rural economy? Might the economic benefits of expanding local food systems be unevenly distributed?)
(The authors do mention that case studies are helpful in local food system research because of the chance for context, but warn that makes generalities difficult.)

here are some other facts from the report:

Farms selling local food through DTC marketing channels were more likely to remain in business over 2007-12 than all farms not using DTC marketing channels, according to census of agriculture data.

•The significance of local food sales totaling an estimated $6.1 billion in 2012.

For organizers (markets, CSAs, farm stands) the takeaway is clear:

1. We need to collect data and work with those researchers that also want to collect it to paint a more nuanced story of the positive impacts of these channels than were able to be included in the report. Those are not limited to: new product testing, constant cycles of introduction for eaters and producers, the opportunity for attempting small (often risky) pilots for increasing access, educational resources for youth, urban/rural connections and more.

2. That data has to be on the multiple impacts of markets, not just on direct sales. Do farmers meet other buyers (intermediate) at the market? Are other outlets dependent on the market for pick up of their goods? Is it a important way for family members to start working for the farm? What about access to shoppers using benefit program dollars-is this an area of new customer sales that DTC farmers have captured almost entirely (and influenced recent national policy?)

3. A dip in the number of new markets opening or DTC sales flattening for a time (if that is indeed the case) may mean something quite different than the implicit assertion that consumers and farmers are choosing other outlets. Factors may include weather issues, or regulatory pressures (see the fee hike suggested by King County in this story as an example) or farmers unable or unwilling to separate sales outlets when reporting data.

4. An example of how market organizers could help researchers is by gathering anecdotal info for future studies to see if DTC farmers choose autonomy and non-economic benefits over higher incomes as was suggested in the report:

The lower total household income suggests that farmers with direct sales may have had less favorable off-farm income opportunities. If true, this could provide them with an incentive to remain in business even if they have less ability or opportunity to expand production.
Higher survival rates and slower growth for those with direct sales might also be explained by different attitudes toward farm versus nonfarm work. Researchers have found evidence that nonpecuniary benefits from self-employment explain why small business owners remain in business despite earning less income (Hamilton, 2000). There is also evidence that the non-pecuniary benefits to farming (e.g., greater autonomy, independence, and lifestyle factors) are substantial (Key and Roberts, 2009). It is possible that farmers who sell directly to consumers derive greater nonpecuniary benefits from their work—perhaps they enjoy interacting with their customers. This would provide a greater incentive for them to remain in business even with lower business expansion possibilities.

    Positive impacts

•The economic benefits of farmers’ markets may also extend beyond multiplier effects, which measure short-term impacts. Lev et al. (2003), for example, found that businesses near farmers’ markets reported higher sales on market days. Not only were these additional sales found to directly support the businesses themselves, but they also generated extra tax revenue for the communities in which the markets were located. Brown (2002) found some evidence that farmers’ markets increase property values in the market district.

•Additionally, farmers’ markets can function as business incubators by providing the infrastructure necessary to build skills and gain business experience (Feenstra et al., 2003; Gillespie et al., 2007). Regular interactions can “generate and circulate knowledge that vendors might use to develop new products and creative ways of marketing them” (Hinrichs et al., 2004: 32-33). Feenstra et al. (2003), for example, explored New York, Iowa, and California farmers’ market contributions to the development of vendors’ capacity as entrepreneurs and found that 66 percent of vendors expanded an existing product line, 50 percent added a new product category, and 40 percent made new business contacts. Sales income may be less important than the skills and business experience developed through participation in farmers’ markets (Brown et al., 2007).

Direct marketing was also associated with higher survival rates among beginning farmers (columns 3 and 4, table 5). On average, beginning farmers who marketed directly to consumers had a 54.3-percent survival rate, compared to 47.4 percent for those who marketed their goods through traditional channels.
What is it about DTC sales that seem to enhance farmers’ chances of maintaining positive sales? One advantage might stem from the fact that, for a given level of sales, farmers with direct marketing purchased less machinery and land than did those with traditional marketing. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture data, farmers who marketed directly owned $20.82 worth of machinery per dollar of sales, compared to $31.10 for those who marketed through conventional channels. Farmers selling directly to consumers also owned less land: $240 worth of land per dollar of sales, compared to $309 per dollar of sales for other farmers. Because they did not need to purchase as much machinery and land to achieve a certain level of sales, farmers with direct sales did not need to leverage as much of their wealth to obtain financing. This is confirmed by the census data, which show that farmers with direct sales had annual interest payments of only $7.85 per $1,000 of owned assets, compared to $10.55 for those with no direct sales. A lower debt-to-asset ratio should indicate a better ability to repay loans and has been shown to reduce the risk of small business failure (Tveteras and Eide, 2000; Strotmann, 2007; Fotopoulos and Louri, 2000).


Are Farmers Market Sales Peaking? That Might Be Good For Farmers : The Salt : NPR.

the actual USDA report

FNS begins process to offer grants for replacement EBT services and equipment

This is a pre-solicitation notice to assist Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and State agencies to establish a process to award support grants to eligible farmers’ markets and to develop a method that offer replacement Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefits Transaction (SNAP EBT) equipment and services for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers.
The solicitation package will be posted on fedbizopps on or August 22, 2014. All additional details (i.e. closing date, FAR Clauses, Evaluation Factors) will be included in the solicitation package.

The request for proposal (RFP) will have a two part evaluation. Part 1 will be evaluated using a pass/fail evaluation. Part 1 evaluation factor is Experience: Offeros shall demonstrate experience with Farmers Markets and direct-marketing farmers nationwide and associated partnership experience working with the Farmer Market and direct-marketing farmer.

RFP

Part 2 evaluation factors will be provided in the solicitation package.

Alternatively, interested parties may go to https://www.fbo.gov/ and search for the Notice by using the solicitation number AG82014.

2012 Agriculture Census Released | National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

“In releasing the Census, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called particular attention to beginning farmer highlights, including that 22 percent of all farmers are beginning farmers who have operated a farm for less than ten years and that the number of younger beginning farmers (35 and under) who report farming as their principal occupation has increased by 11 percent since the 2007 Census, to 40,499.

The Secretary also noted that 30 percent of all farm operators are women and that Latino farm operators have increased 21 percent since the last Census to 99,734. He also noted that organic sales from farms increased by 82 percent since 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the agency which conducts the Census, highlighted in their release that 2012 set records for both the value of farm sales and the costs of production, with farmers and ranchers selling $395 billion worth of products at a cost of $329 billion, such that an average less than 17 percent of sales became actual income.

.. .They also pointed out the 144,530 farms sold directly to consumers, with total direct sales of $1.3 billion, up 8 percent from 2007.
2012 Ag Census
Census home page

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death by 42 percent — ScienceDaily

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death by 42 percent — ScienceDaily.

CFA study of direct sales and agritourism shows some ups and downs

From FoodTank: “On-farm enterprises that focused their business plans on local communities were labeled community-focused agriculture (CFA). This included farms that sell their produce directly to consumers and generate farm income through agritourism. According to the report, only 6.2 percent of all farms deal in direct sales, and around one percent report income from agritourism (all study figures are based on USDA statistics from 2007, the most recent year available).

Studying CFA influence on a national and county-by-county level, researchers found some surprising results. In New England and Mideast counties, regions with well-developed urban centers in proximity to CFA, direct sales increases were associated with increases in total farm sales, as well as personal income growth. Agritourism, on the other hand, was found to have a negative effect on total farm sales.

In the Southeast, increases in direct sales were associated with overall reductions in total farm sales. However, the reverse was true for the effect of agritourism on total farm sales, which was found to be positive in this region and in the Great Lakes.”

“Linkages Between Community-Focused Agriculture, Farm Sales, and Regional Growth”
Economic Development Quarterly 0891242413506610, first published on October 18, 2013

The Crunchy Cities Index – Support Farmers Markets

This is an exciting piece on the explosion of farmers markets, but I must confess that based on my own knowledge, I find the data to be less than precise. The USDA list of markets is not checked for accuracy and as it is up to market organizers to list and to de-list their own markets, most estimations believe that the list is far from accurate, even though the USDA does everything within its (limited) time to make it right. Even the definition of what can be listed as a market is loose; this may seem like nitpicking (after all more “markets” is good news isn’t it?) but since we know how the capacity of markets remains low partly because of low support among funders and policy makers, the lack of clarity may hurt chances to expand well-managed farmers markets or public markets that support local entrepreneurs.
What is also true is that many retail operations masquerade as farmers markets without directly supporting farmers or managing those involved in direct sales; regular operation, transparent governance and some direct sales for regional producers should at least be the minimum to being listed on this list. Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of auxiliary and ancillary food initiatives that get regional food into more communities being listed somewhere and to be tied to efforts at flagship or sister market organizations, but we should get better at describing each of them with their own type so we can allow more to flourish.

The Crunchy Cities Index – Buy Local by I Support Farmers Markets.

What I Learned from a Week on Food Stamps: Paul Ryan Couldn’t Be Any More Wrong

A surprisingly well done article, even though it springs from what I consider an overdone and less than useful premise that I’ve seen before: a reporter using SNAP for a week. However, this one is has decent information and connects this issue to some larger issues, partially thanks to Daniel Bowman Simon.

The average amount that a family on food stamps gets per month is $133. That is $133 for 93 meals. For three meals a day, $133 breaks down to less than $1.50 per meal.

Luckily, the New York City Department of Human Resources’ website has guides available for SNAP participants, including a one that explains how to “Cut the Junk” and another with recipes for healthy and cheap meals on it. (Most of these are bean/chili based….)

———————————————————————————————————————————–
Daniel Bowman Simon is deep into SNAP, which is the focal point of his research at New York University’s Food Studies program. And he is frustrated. Seated in the Food Studies program’s fifth-floor conference room, he ticks off a list of grievances relating to the SNAP program and the Farm Bill, as well as the media’s coverage of the issue — framed as a contest between farm subsidies and SNAP benefits….

————————————————————————————————————————————-

My mom posed a simple question: “Sarah, does SNAP feed people?”

“Yes,” I responded, “and it’s actually really efficient.” It’s true: SNAP has less than a 4 percent error rate, according to Riley — and sometimes that error is because of people who received less money than they should have. The program also has very low rates of fraud. The USDA just released a report saying that only 2.77 percent of errors in the programwere in the form of overpayment, which includes fraudulent applications.

“Food is one of the most cost effective forms of prevention,” Sarah Franklin explains. Obesity, cognitive abilities, and heart disease are all linked to eating habits. “Making sure that people have access to food is, in my mind, one of the most important and no-brainer policies,” she says. “The food stamp program, even though it’s not the perfect program — to make cuts to that program is idiotic.”

What I Learned from a Week on Food Stamps: Paul Ryan Couldn’t Be Any More Wrong | Alternet.

FMC Supports the 2014 Farm Bill | Farmers Market Coalition

    link.

MarketLink is available

As readers of this blog know, troubling issues remain with the adoption of wireless technology and appropriate systems for accepting cards at markets, whether at a central terminal or through individual terminals. This pot of money is welcome but may also create a divide for those states and networks that need some time and resources to study the efficacy of existing programs before expanding them anymore. In any case, I sincerely hope that this program will be about assisting networks to solve some of those problems and not just about expanding the number of machines available.

MarketLinkTM is a program of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) launched in 2013 to connect farmers, markets, and consumers through technology. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set a goal to increase the acceptance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) at farmers markets nationwide, and awarded a contract to NAFMNP to work towards this end.

MarketLink | Connecting farmers, markets & consumers through technology.