Cowan Community Center is proud to again be working with the Letcher County Farmers Market. Members of the Letcher County Farmers Market attended another Farmers Market Support Program in Berea on Thursday, March 13th. The weather had tried her best to keep this from happening, but we made it and were the wiser for it. Letcher County was one of five upcoming markets selected to participate in this program and what a help it has been. Our first session was in December and we were snowed out in January and February, but had a great day last week. It was nice to be in the company of two other Grow Appalachia sites involved in their markets. St. Vincent Mission works closely with the Floyd County Farmers Market and Rockcastle County Farmers Market both represented Grow Appalachia.
A major focus of the day was understanding the process for Markets to be able to accept SNAP benefits. This is a priority for our Farmers Market as a goal is to make fresh produce available for all income levels. We were doubly excited when we learned Community Farm Alliance has secured funding to offer “Double Dollars” to SNAP recipients. If you aren’t familiar with this program, which I wasn’t until the market training, it’s a Win! Win! The idea is that SNAP benefits will be doubled at the Farmers Market. SNAP cards are used to purchase tokens to be used at the Farmers Market for approved food purchases, the “Double Dollars” program allows recipients to receive double the tokens for their redemption. Example..$10.00 will be deducted from the SNAP card, but recipient will receive $20 in Farmers Market tokens. Win for the customer as their money goes further and they are more able to afford fresh vegetables with a limited budget. Win for the farmer as they get to sell twice as much. Farmers turn in tokens to be reimbursed for their sales.We also learned more about WIC and Senior Vouchers and how to begin the process for being prepared to accept those vouchers. Letcher County, along with many neighboring counties in Eastern Kentucky leads the nation with dire statistics for life longevity, cancer and diabetes rate and obesity. In looking at the bigger picture, a goal is to make healthy food choices available to all populations. These are steps in the right direction and we appreciate the information. More customers meets the goal for our farmers making more sales.
Sharon Spencer, Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Mac Stone, Kentucky State University offered insight and guidance on best practices at the Farmers Market. I am new to many of the organizations and just learning what support and opportunities are out there, but I have seen Sharon Spencer and Mac Stone showing up in many places generously offering their services.
At the end of the day, we had a panel discussion, led by Martin Richards, Community Farm Alliance and had the opportunity to ask questions from successful and thriving markets in Kentucky. Cathy Howell represented Jackson County Farmers Market, Todd Howard represented Floyd County Farmers Market, Jackson Rolett represented Bowling Green Farmers Market and Jeff Dabbelt represented Lexington Farmers Market. The opportunity to ask questions to the panel with the experience and wisdom of this panel was a great help to our beginning market.
Letcher County will be posting the Market Manager position soon and hope to hire by mid April. Again, appreciative of Community Farm Alliance and Grow Appalachia for assisting in funding to make this position possible. Also, would like to recognize our Mayor, James Wiley Craft and the Whitesburg City Council for matching the funds of $2,500 to make a Market Manager a reality.
It takes a village to raise a garden. Thanks to all who are working to support the small farmer.
Sharon Spencer Mac Stone