Posted on August 4th, 2011. Filed under National Farmers Market Week.
Since its inception in 1974, the Fayetteville Farmers Market (FFM) in Arkansas has always had the farmers in mind, developing it as a resource that could provide income to senior farmers. In a city of 73,000, it has continued to evolve and thrive as a producer-only market that now hosts 60 providers of locally-grown food.
“It’s a sad truth that many farmers today are at the bottom of the food chain, with little say in where, when, or how their products ultimately reach the customer. The Fayetteville Farmers Market is one of the several thousand in America offering farmers a stake in market governance, and a producer-only policy that ensures a level playing field,” says Stacy Miller of the Farmers Market Coalition.
This week, the Farmers Market Coalition recognizes Fayetteville Farmers Market as a leader in putting farmers directly next to the consumer, squarely in the center of the system. The Fayetteville Market is run by a small staff and all of the market vendor-members have voting privileges on major market decisions.
A focus on the farmer does not mean that shoppers needs go unmet. Participants in the Supplmental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are now able to redeem benefits at the Market thanks to support from the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), and a partnership with Northwest Arkansas Farmers’ Market Alliance (NWA) and the University of Arkansas. With grant support, the market was able to implement EBT and a set wooden of tokens to begin accepting SNAP at both their weekend and weekday markets. Local businesses have been working with FFM to start a matching program for SNAP as well as WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program participants. In addition, the grant has allowed NWA is able to advertise all of the participating markets on television to raise awareness of the market a reliable outlet for affordable fresh food. Redemption rates are growing week by week as a result.
Fayetteville Farmers Market Manager Peggy Maringer adds, “What is not measurable with numbers and statistics are the smiles and gratitude expressed by SNAP customers. The goodwill this program has created is hard to quantify, but it is very real. We don’t measure the improvements in our customers’ diets, the obesity rates among their children, or whether they have shinier hair or improved immune systems. But if we could, I suspect we would be impressed with the results.”
Visit the Fayetteville Farmers Market online at www.fayettevillefarmersmarket.org.