Columbia Farmers' Market gets some $57,000 from USDA

Monday, October 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:17 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 12, 2009

*CORRECTION: One recent USDA grant will offer the winter program to members of the Columbia Farmers' Market at a discounted price. An earlier version of this article misstated the discount to members.

COLUMBIA — This coming spring, the Columbia Farmers' Market plans to yield a crop of low-income consumers who can reap the benefits of local, nutritious produce.

In September, the farmers market learned it will receive more than $57,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote the market’s participation in the Food Stamps Program.

Caroline Todd, manager of the farmers market, said the money will fuel a marketing campaign in March 2010 to advocate the market’s ability to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards. These cards act as a debit card for food stamp benefits and allow those on federal assistance to purchase food authorized by the program.

“This is part of a nationwide campaign to establish more local food systems,” Todd said.

A November 2008 survey by the organization Sustainable Farms and Communities showed that 70 percent of low-income households surveyed do not shop at the farmers market. Todd said this is because of the misconception that market produce is expensive and a general lack of awareness that EBT cards are accepted.

“The purpose is to build awareness,” Todd said. “Obviously, we have some customers that come and use their EBT cards at the market, but more people need to be aware of this option.”

Mary Hendrickson, a rural sociologist with MU Extension, said the grant is a step toward creating equal opportunity in food for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Farmers markets are one of the few places we have in our society where lots of people from different walks of life can mingle,” Hendrickson said. “We need those kinds of outlets. It’s just a very healthy way to build those kinds of relationships in the community.”

She said she believes people are more likely to purchase produce if it is of a higher quality. This campaign will promote the availability of these foods and will therefore potentially improve the diets of Columbia’s low-income households.

“The farmers market is really doing fabulous work,” Hendrickson said. “It’s just really very, very tasty, and when fruits and vegetables taste better, a lot more people are going to eat a lot more of them.”

The produce at the market is grown locally, and Hendrickson said it is picked at the height of its ripeness.

“If you go to a store where they don’t have a love of produce like they do at the farmers market, you just get a different quality in the taste,” she said.

Both the Columbia Farmers’ Market and the Boone County Farmers’ Market accept EBT cards. In August, 8,830 Boone County households participated in the Food Stamps Program, according to the most recent report from the Missouri Department of Social Services. Roughly $2.43 million worth of benefits were spread among those homes at an average of $275.98.

In addition to promoting the farmers market’s participation in the Food Stamps Program, the grant funding also will support the education of the market’s farmers. This winter, farmers will have the opportunity to attend Grow Your Farm, a course through MU Extension, at a discounted price*. Lessons will teach farmers how to write business plans and establish insurance and retirement plans.


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david teeghman October 19, 2009 | 11:05 a.m.

What does "some" $57,000 mean?

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock October 19, 2009 | 3:51 p.m.

I am unsure if I like this or not. It would help if I knew more about the food stamp program. I have taken trips to the market and I have noticed that for the most part the food costs more. There are some exceptions. I get that it is supposed to be better since it is grown locally and a lot of it is organic. I do want people to eat healthy and I like supporting the local market but should people who receive government funds eat better than any other family who is not receiving the funds? Here is my second thought couldn't we feed more people (granted it may not be organic) with the same amount of money? If the food costs the same or is reasonably comparable then I am fine with it. IE a head of red leaf lettuce costs around $1.30 at most stores. If the same leaf lettuce costs .10-.40 more then it wouldn't bother me, as much. However if it is much over than then it would seem there are some inequities with what is right for all citizens.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 19, 2009 | 5:13 p.m.

Allan Sharrock the thing with EBT/Food Stamps is the user of the card does not have to pay a sales tax on the food purchased. That is about all and in between the normal grocery stores and now Farmers Market those monies do not go far unless you are a very careful and thrifty type of shopper.

What is funny about Food Stamps is it goes on your income and on your outgoing bills. One person can make around $50.00 a month on their Food Stamps while another might only get $10.00 and has similar statistics. Just another example of Government Bureaucracy at it's best I guess.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock October 19, 2009 | 5:55 p.m.

Well the name "food stamp" almost imply that it is something that you use at the time for purchase vs a tax break. Well then I don't see any issue of allowing somebody not to pay a tax for food for their family if they are in need.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 19, 2009 | 6:50 p.m.

Allan Sharrock one problem alot of the Anti F.S. people complain about and I can agree is that alot of participants do not report when they get their SSI/SSD going or even back to work full time and will abuse the system as long as they think they can get away with it. I can sympathize at times with their reasons why,but it screws it for everybody else later on.

They eventually get caught by the system once "Red Flags" pop up on their profiles,but the system is so over loaded that it takes a long time in some cases.

That is the key to keeping F.S. participants honest is to report all major changes ASAP. As time goes on the system gets better at catching all of these participants who do not report at all.

I think it is a great idea that people can use F.S. at the Farmers Market to buy healthy foods and I also think there needs to be some overhaul in the F.S. system itself to push for measures that push participants towards buying more healthy foods instead of Soda,Candy,Junk Food and other non healthy food items.

Yes it is government cracking down with a little bit more control but as we all know part of the system is broken if you have people on the program who are abusing that program instead of eating healthy as the program was originally intended for. Sometimes government reform can be a good thing.

(Report Comment)
Lane McConnell October 20, 2009 | 12:04 p.m.

I think this is a wonderful addition to the Columbia Farmers' Market and I'm very proud of the market and it's vendors. I've worked with this market for the past two years and I know how dedicated they are in providing the Columbia area with fresh, local and healthy produce!

The market received the wireless machine from a grant and it's been a little difficult to promote to all social groups that the market does in fact have an EBT machine. I believe this grant will allow the market to build it's customer base and really allow all Columbians the opportunity to "Buy Local!"

(Report Comment)

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