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Nov 10

Promoting Pierce County's Farmers Markets

Posted on November 10, 2015 at 2:16 PM by Allan Warren

MarketThroughout the spring, Pierce Conservation District staff worked with managers of Pierce County's numerous Farmers Markets to put together a collaborative promotional campaign to help boost sales. The impetus behind this work was the US Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant opportunity. This work recently paid off as the USDA awarded the District nearly $100,000 to support our local markets and the over 120 farms they represent.

This support will come in a number of forms:
  • Each market (11) will get their own promotional video
  • They'll each receive a food demonstration kit to highlight ways local consumers can cook locally grown food
  • Each will get nearly $4,000 in print materials including signs, banners, posters, rack cards, and more
  • We will develop a "Buy Local" brand for county wide market promotions
  • That brand will be used in regional Pierce Transit advertising campaign that will be matched dollar for dollar
  • All of the grant money spent on this campaign will support local businesses
  • Perhaps most importantly, the markets will work together to make it all happen
In addition to simply increasing the consumption of locally grown food, the FMPP also prioritizes projects that improve conditions for low income/low access consumers. Almost all of Pierce County's Farmers Markets are located in areas with significant populations of low income consumers who have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In other words, many of Pierce County's residents live in food deserts. This collaborative promotions campaign will not only improve sales of local agricultural products, but it will do so in a way that will make our local food system more equitable.

To do this, we'll recruit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefitWaterfront Market users from each of the local markets to help guide our efforts as a SNAP Advisory Council. We'll produce a video to promote the fact that the SNAP payment system (EBT) is accepted at local markets and to show users how to use it.

Some folks might ask why an equitable food system matters, why not just improve the sales at our markets and local farms? It matters for many reasons, the primary one being that low income/low access consumers are caught in a tough feedback loop: more nutritious food allows people to do better in school or at work and therefore increase their income and access to healthy food. By providing greater access to healthy food, we're giving people better opportunity in our society as a whole.

Another important reason to focus on low income/low access is simpler: it's the best way to boost the bottom line. By focusing our promotional efforts on consumers who are enrolled in SNAP we will leverage dollars to have a multiplier effect for local farmers. Each $1 in SNAP benefits spent results in a $1.80 impact on the local economy, a $.34 increase in farm production, and an $.11 increase in farm value.

Currently, only 1% of sales at local farmers markets are going to SNAP benefits users, even though they make up nearly 15% of Pierce County's population. Over 42,000 households in Pierce County spend roughly $10 million per month in SNAP benefits. How much better off will those households be if more of those dollars are spent on fresh, healthy, locally grown food? How much better off will our local farmers be if more of those dollars are spent to support their hard work?

We can boost the economic impact of our local food system and make it more equitable. With this collaborative promotions program, we will.

Comments

Amy Reed-Ferguson
October 7, 2015 at 5:33 PM
This is wonderful! As a SNAP user, I have longed for the Puyallup Farmer's Market to accept my benefits. Any idea if Puyallup or Orting is on the list?
Allan Warren
October 8, 2015 at 8:09 AM
Hi Amy, It is wonderful. Both Puyallup and Orting are part of this program. Have you ever inquired with those markets about using your SNAP benefits? I was under the impression that those two markets already accepted EBT payments. Let us know if you're interested in being involved with the SNAP Advisory Council for this program!

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