National Farmers Market Week is a time for celebration – and an opportunity to support farmers
Posted On: August 8, 2018
by Ben Feldman, FMC Policy Director | email@example.com
This week is National Farmers Market Week — seven days dedicated to celebrating all the amazing things about farmers markets. And that list is long. Whether it’s improving farmer prosperity, jump-starting economic activity, creating jobs, or improving health, farmers markets do it all. While it may seem that farmers markets are all about food, at their core, farmers markets are about people; individual farmers selling directly to individual customers. At the end of the day, Farmers Market Week is a celebration of community.
Unfortunately, recent weeks have been anything but a celebration, as many farmers markets around the country face a looming shutdown by the largest processor of SNAP (formerly food stamps) at farmers markets. The news rocked the industry, leading to anger, finger pointing, and assertions of blame, much of it unhelpful or even counter productive. The idea that USDA intentionally undermined SNAP at farmers markets feeds a divisive narrative, and fails to recognize the long standing commitment USDA has shown to improving SNAP access at farmers markets. Certainly there are ways that USDA could have done better in their implementation over the years, but opportunities exist to improve the system, and USDA has provided significant resources towards addressing this issue.
While a recent agreement between New York Governor Cuomo and Novo Dia (the company in question) will keep Novo Dia in business through early 2019, this situation highlights the need for long term solutions. Farmers markets and the farmers who sell in them need low cost, easy to use, robust technology options. And a one size fits all approach will not work. The circumstances on the ground are different from market to market, and community to community. Long term solutions will not come easily, but they can be found. It will take people working together to find them, putting aside blame, and doing real work to fix problems.
In addition to being National Farmers Market Week, this week also comes at the tail end of farm bill negotiations, with a new bill needed by September 30th. Both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the bill and the final stage is to figure out how to combine those bills. And programs that support farmers markets hang in the balance. On the one hand is the Senate bill that makes significant long term investments in farmers markets, small farmers, and local/regional food economies through the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP). On the other, the house bill makes drastic cuts to these same areas. Cuts to these programs would represent a massive step backwards for farmers markets, seriously undermining a decade of investment in local food systems and agricultural economies, and putting markets and farmers in jeopardy.
So in the spirit of National Farmers Market Week, and people helping people, here are three things that everyone can do to support America’s hard working farmers:
- Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you support the Senate farm bill and want the Local Agriculture Market Program in the final bill.
- Shop regularly at your farmers market – and bring a friend!
- Become an FMC member. Your membership increases our strength; it empowers FMC as a voice for farmers markets at the state and federal level, ensuring the priorities and concerns of farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers are heard loud and clear.
Farmers depend on people like you and me to be part of the celebration and solution. And, of course, for us to show up to market each week eager to buy the fresh, delicious food that they worked so hard to produce. Happy National Farmers Market Week!