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Sumter County Extension helps implement SNAP/EBT at farmer’s market, spreads the word

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers' market

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers’ market

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Making it easier for residents to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and increase Florida farmer’s profits is the win-win result of a partnership between the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Sumter County Office and the Sumter County Farmer’s Market.

The team launched a successful campaign to accept SNAP/EBT, also known as food stamps, which allows SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the Sumter County Farmer’s Market.

The program has been successful for shoppers and vendors, said Martha Maddox, Sumter County, Family and Consumer Science Agent.  “Residents have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthier food choices,” she said.  “While at the same time we are promoting buying local produce and increasing the farmers’ revenue.  It’s a great program all the way around for everyone involved.”

The idea for the program started when the chairman of the Sumter County Farmer’s Market Board and local farmer, Bud Fussell, met with Maddox to discuss accepting EBT for his personal business.  While Maddox was helping Fussell with his application she ask him what he thought about the Sumter County Farmer’s Market submitting an application.

 

According to Maddox, “Bud thought this was an awesome idea and we needed to run the idea by the farmer’s market manager, Marc Harrell.”  So, she pitched the idea to Harrell followed by a presentation to the entire market board by Maddox and Stacy Strickland, multi-county Extension director.

“We also met with the Alachua and Brevard counties farmer’s market folks to see how the program worked for them,” Strickland said.

Though the Sumter County board voted to accept the federal program, it turned out to be an arduous process.  UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County and the farmer’s market submitted an application to the federal government in 2013 just before the federal government shut down because of a congressional budget impasse.  The result—the application process was delayed almost a year.

Upon approval by the federal government, the farmer’ market and UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County then discussed how the market would accept SNAP/EBT. “We decided to place a centrally-located machine in the farmer’s market that would dispense tokens,” Maddox said. “The board was concerned that visitors would use the tokens to buy items other than produce. So, we created an agreement form on guidelines for vendor accepting tokens and had them sign it.”

Items that can be purchased using EBT tokens include: fruits, vegetables, dairy, jams and jellies, baked goods, meat and poultry, breads, syrup and honey and garden seeds and vegetable plants, Maddox said.

In September 2014, vendors at the market began accepting SNAP/EBT. To spread the word, UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County launched a marketing campaign throughout the county. “We handed out fliers at various locations including Children and Family Services, and Head Start, and ran ads in newspaper and on radio,” Maddox said. “Now, we are creating recipe ideas on how to prepare the produce that visitors buy.”

Vendors are seeing the gain in profits, Maddox said. “In May, we had $1,800 in sales via SNAP/EBT. In August, we had $4,181,” she said.

Word has spread about the success of the program, Strickland said. “We have received calls from other counties asking for information, and are going to multiple farmer’s market to spread the program,” he said.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Sources: Martha Maddox, 352-793-2728, mmaddox@ufl.edu

Stacy Strickland, 352-754-4433, jsstrick@ufl.edu