Local farmers market now accepts EBT cards
MORRIS -- In our community, the Morris Area Farmers Market has become a nexus of amazing farmers and produce. Last year, the market moved to East Side Park in Morris to help provide a more comfortable and enjoyable buying experience for its customers. The market is every Monday and Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and runs until Sept. 26.
This year, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants can now use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at the Morris Area Farmers Market.
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
This year’s EBT program at the farmer’s market is a part of a wider initiative by the Department of Human Services and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and is geared toward increasing the availability of fresh food to low-income residents. Some 50 markets in the state are participating in the program.
SNAP participants can use their EBT cards at the Morris Healthy Eating tent, where they receive tokens in exchange for card points. The tokens can then be used at the various vendor stalls. As an extra incentive, EBT customers also receive an additional $5 in “Market Bucks” each time they make purchases at the market. Market Bucks can be used throughout the season and do not expire.
“We’re offering EBT card access because we want to reach out to people who don’t have access to fresh, locally raised food,” Feuchtenberger said. “When your food isn’t shipped from hundreds of miles away, it tastes better and is more nutritious. You can taste the difference. Nothing can compare to sweet corn picked two hours before it’s sold.”
The market consists of more than 20 vendors who sell local produce, meat, eggs, fresh-cut flowers, and hand-made bread and preserves. The vendors and available wares at the market change throughout the season, depending on availability.
The market cooperates with the Upper Minnesota River Valley arm of Buy Fresh Buy Local, a national initiative supporting the distribution of locally grown food, and Morris Healthy Eating, led by the University of Minnesota Morris to increase access to fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods on the UMM campus, in Morris and in Stevens County.
The market’s produce is always fresh from the farm. Early in the season you’ll see many cold-weather crops like lettuce, spinach and broccoli, as well as fresh-picked strawberries. Warm-weather crops like tomatoes, melons and corn will become available later in the summer.
The market has created a network of vendors and community members passionate about educating people about healthy eating and providing a space to access fresh local products. New vendors can register at any time. Market Manager Paula Feuchtenberger says that this year’s market features a number of exciting changes.
Starting later in July on alternating Thursdays, vendors will begin demonstrations of various ways to use and prepare produce from the market. In the fall, these food demonstrations will include tips on canning and preserving. Stevens County Master Gardeners are also making as showing this year, providing tips and tricks for a bountiful harvest.
Also at the market this year is entertainment, including a jazz band from the university that has already played twice this season. Right now the big draw is fresh strawberries, which are currently in season.
Michael Strand is a freelance contributor to the Morris Sun Tribune.