It has been a successful seventh season for the Sedalia Area Farmer’s Market, which will come to a close the last Friday in October.
Since opening, the market continues to benefit many in the community by offering options that provide an ease of access to fresh food.
“This has been a phenomenal year,” Bev Rollings, SAFM founder, said Tuesday. “This is our seventh season, and in all businesses they say that if you can make it to your seventh year, then you are really established. People will know you well enough that the business will feed off itself — no pun intended.”
This year the market has had more vendors and more customers than in the past, although early summer rains sat some vendors back a little causing a delay in the tomato and watermelon crops. Rollings added that the “early plantings were washed-out.”
“Basically there are no complaints except for the weather, which you can’t control,” she added. “It was such a wet May and June it makes it difficult to have tomatoes reliably.”
Through the years, customers have continued to benefit from being able to use Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, at the market.
“From the very beginning of the market, part of our mission is to help to provide fresh, healthy, locally-grown food to anyone,” Rollings said. “So from the very first year that we opened, we pursued being able to accept SNAP transactions, which is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, that used to be called food stamps. We were very fortunate that we got a grant then from the Missouri Department of Agriculture to have the machine that we use to accept the EBT cards and the debit cards.
“In the first few years, it was difficult to get the word out,” she added. “Because quite often the population that benefits from SNAP is fairly transient. They qualify, and then they don’t qualify, it wasn’t steady. But now the word is getting out that the farmer’s market accepts (SNAP).”
Rollings said the market was thankful for Bothwell Regional Health Center, private donors and churches that have provided matching funds for SNAP.
“That has really helped get the word out,” she added. “When we have those funds available, we will match up to $10 per market day. It really opens up the possibility of access to fresh, local food for a population that may not think they could have afforded it before or just never considered it before.”
Rollings agreed that some people may perceive farmer’s markets as a more expensive place to purchase fresh foods, but that isn’t usually the case. Vendors have benefited from the SNAP program as well.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” she said. “The vendors are really excited about it.”
Transaction data for SNAP assistance with the SAFM shows an steady increase in those using the benefit and also shows increases in matching funds. In 2011, 123 people used SNAP assistance of $1,850.10 with matching funds at $1,150 for a total benefit of $3,000.10. So far in 2015, 212 people have used the assistance. As of Sept. 21, $2,968.45 has been used in SNAP assistance with matching funds at $1,500 for a total of $4,468.
“Dollar-for-dollar we’re up about $200 over what we did last year,” she said. “So, we still have the rest of the year to go.
The market has students, military members and young families that use SNAP benefits.
“We have a really nice bunch of folks,” she added. “We love our customers and we love our vendors.”
The market will close the last Friday of October, but will be offering many fall vegetables, herbs and chrysanthemums during the next few weeks. The first full week of October will be a celebration of kale. The market will offer kale recipes on both Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Friday, Oct. 9.
SAFM is also offering the Winter Bounty Bag again this season, with options: the traditional bounty bag filled with greens and root vegetables, the egg and bread bounty bag or both.
“We are offering 60 subscriptions this year and we have 50 slots filled,” Rollings said.
To sign up for the for Winter Bounty Bag or for pricing check, with the SAFM or visit www.sedaliaareafarmersmarket.com.
The SAFM is located on the Missouri State Fairgrounds and is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays each week through Oct. 30.
Faith Bemiss can be reaced at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.