Please help us spread the word!
Farmers markets are more than just an outlet for fresh produce and friendly farmers. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, these grassroots venues have increased in number by over 60% since 2009 to more than 8,500 today. These markets preserve farmland, stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh nutritious food, improve community health, and promote sustainability. For example, growers that sell locally create thirteen full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned while those that do not sell locally only create three. Sonoma County is home to 22 farmers markets and 10 of those markets participate in Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. which stands for Local Incentive for Food and Economy.
The Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. (LIFE) collaboration began in 2015 and is administered by Petaluma Bounty. As part of the California Market Match Consortium, LIFE provides a dollar for dollar match for CalFresh customers that use their benefits at participating markets. During the first year of operations, LIFE partners distributed over $83,000 in CalFresh and incentives. CalFresh sales at Farmers’ Markets have grown an average of 18.3% annually over the past four seasons and it’s the hope of all collaborative members that by addressing the price point issue at markets, more community members on CalFresh will support small scale farms.
LIFE will celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week by kicking off a series of tours geared toward CalFresh customers. The idea behind the tours came from feedback that markets seems elitist and not inviting to people on CalFresh or community members whose primary language is not English. With that in mind, LIFE partnered with the Center for Well-Being community health workers (also known as promotores) to conduct the tours in English and Spanish. Martin Rivarola, the Community Engagement Manager at the Center for Well-Being is excited about this new collaboration. “Serving as a bridge between lower income folks and local farmers, our promotoras are poised to change the norms and help transform farmers’ markets into a more inclusive community outing.”
Santa Rosa Vet’s Community Farmers’ Market Manager, Jim Fenton, is excited to host several tours. “It will bring more low-income community members to markets where they will eat healthy, locally grown food. And it will make the markets more inviting to all our community.” Participating markets include Agricultural Community Events (Petaluma Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday; Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa Vets) Santa Rosa Original Farmers’ Market, Sebastopol Farmers’ Market, and Healdsburg Farmers’ Market.
Our mission is to improve the health of our community and enhance the financial viability of farmers by expanding access to affordable, locally grown food for CalFresh users. Suzi Grady, Director of Petaluma Bounty and LIFE shares, “It’s so wonderful to see farmers’ markets working together for the betterment of their communities and to expand their customer base for their farmers. Our shared goals with the tours are to familiarize new customers with the market layouts and CalFresh system, increase confidence cooking with seasonal, fresh produce, and building a sense of community and comfort at markets.”
Additional activities to celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week at participating markets will live broadcast interviews of local farmers, a community photo contest, taste tests, and cookbook giveaways. For community members that want to help promote their local farmers’ markets, we ask you to submit a photo of your favorite farmer, food or market scene to farmersmarketlife facebook page and use the hashtag #FarmersMarketWeekLIFE . Winners will be choosen on August 31st. Market tours are still being scheduled throughout the fall of 2016. For an updated list of tour dates and more information about LIFE, please go to www.farmersmarketlife.org.