By Haleigh Patch
Farmers markets create a mutually beneficial relationship between consumer and farmer.
They give consumers the opportunity to buy local, affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting the local farmers who worked hard to grow the produce.
Registered dietitian Katherine Harrington who eats organic vegan foods daily says farmers markets are a great way for people to gain more access to these certain foods.
“What we put into our body has a huge impact on how we feel and preform as humans,” says Harrington, “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. If you feed your body unhealthy foods constantly, you’re not going to feel great.”
According to Harrington, famers’ markets are a great idea for local urban farms have a chance to sell produce and make some sort of profit. Most urban farms in Boston are non-profit organizations who rely heavily on grants, donations, and volunteers.
It’s also a place where it can help these organizations financially while creating a connection between them and others within the community.
When starting out at a farmers’ market, there are certain rules and regulations one must follow. According to Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Access Catalina López-Ospina, in Boston farmers markets are independently managed by non-profits, neighborhood groups, developers and so forth. So, the city oversees the permitting process for these independent markets and serves as a clearinghouse of information about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, grant opportunities and compliance across city offices.
As a vendor at a farmers’ market, you must apply for a vendor permit to sell packaged or processed food. As for fees, according to Boston.gov, Boston Inspectional Services Department is waiving Farmers Market vendor fees for 2021.
There are steps one must take when starting a farmers’ market, such as picking a location, finding vendors, hiring a market manager and filling out building permit forms. If you have had a farmers’ market in the past you must fill out a Vendor Profile and Renewal Form along with a Manager Renewal form.
Additional concepts to think about are having EBT processing equipment, manual vouchers and additional resources about assistance programs. Along with advertising, parking information and having the supplies for g tents, table, chairs and signage for market manager table.
As for what you can sell at the market, Boston.gov includes any information you need to know. Some basic information when selling produce is you need to sell uncut fruits and vegetables by standard weight, container, or count. It must be inspected and sealed by the Weights and Measures Division or from your home location if it is sold by weight and it must also be current and legal for trade.
When selling meat, you can only sell it slaughtered in a federally inspected facility. It cannot be put out for display, and you need to keep it frozen and can only be sold by weight.
Packaged food must be labeled with the common name of the product and most importantly the Board of Health will inspect all food.
Your farmers market must also keep food at the correct temperature, hand out bulk items with a utensil, single-use glove, or sheet of paper, not process food on site, manufacture food in a licensed facility or kitchen, and meet sanitation requirements.
When discussing the benefits of farmers markets there are plenty of examples other than health benefits.
According to Michigan State University report, “Farmers markets also represent anchored capital in the community because they are less likely to relocate and therefore provide stability in the economy. Markets can also act as business incubators because customers are more open to trying new products and because the barriers to entry for new vendors are lower in most farmers markets.”
Growers selling locally create 13 full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those that do not sell locally create three, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.
Also, farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses, the report said.
According to the coalition, several studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52% more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011.
Most farmers markets integrate programs such as SNAP and the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency while HIP puts money back on your EBT card when you use SNAP to buy healthy, local fruits and vegetables from HIP farm vendors.
Another program associated with farmers markets and grocery stores is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
According to the city of Boston there are 19 farmers markets and 17 mobile markets in the Boston area and a lot of them contribute to these programs.
One of them being the East Boston Farmers Market is held Wednesdays from 3:00 to 6:30 pm, July 7 through October 13, located in Central Square Park. They offer online ordering and curbside pick-up for the safety and convenience of their customers.
According to Market Manager Nancy Slamet, the market has 12 vendors for this year and more to come in the future.
Payment options also include WIC coupons, senior coupons, SNAP/food stamps/EBT, and P-EBT. Vouchers and coupons for shopping at farmers markets are available for qualified families for HIP.
According to Slamet, the East Boston Farmers Market is organized and operated by the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. They take pride in their vibrant community which has roots in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa and offers an excellent source of unique produce. This includes greens, herbs, fruits, and vegetables along with corn and beans, hot peppers and amaranth, yierba mora, and papalo, water spinach and bok choy, pea tendrils, scallions and Asian mustard, collard greens, cilantro, Italian and sweet Thai basil.
“We try to make it easy and affordable because having access to healthy food matters,” says Slamet.