A farmers’ market means something different to each of us, for many that attend it is a place where environmental care, local economies, small business support, health and community merge into one ethos. A place where the desire to nourish our bodies with the freshest, most conscientiously produced, nutrient dense foods are purveyed in an atmosphere that is faintly festive and raises our spirits. We bring this food home, we cook it together, we serve it to those we love and we repeat week after week for long, healthy lives. Is this not what food is? An integral piece of our lives, essential to living?
Unfortunately, for many this is not the norm. Getting food on the table, especially healthy food, can be extremely difficult. Through the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, the Land Trust has been working to increase access to healthy foods for food-insecure families. BTLT partakes in the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, SNAP incentive program, which doubles the value of SNAP dollars spent on local healthy foods. SNAP recipients visit the info booth at the Farmers’ Market where they swipe their SNAP cards in exchange for Harvest Buck vouchers and for every dollar they convert to Harvest Bucks, they receive a second voucher, doubling their spending capacity and increasing the amount of healthy food they are able to purchase.
These programs are becoming increasingly more common but they are just one step, in just one solution, to addressing food insecurity. BTLT, though its work with the Merrymeeting Food Council, conducted a region-wide assessment to learn from community members what barriers they face when accessing food. Repeated over and over again was a lack of access to transportation, feeling as if they “don’t belong” and the shame they face each time the use of a WIC voucher or SNAP card slows the line at the cash register.
The Market, understanding these concerns, is offering market tours this summer in partnership with Curtis Memorial Library and SNAP-Ed. The goal is to make coming to the market a little less daunting for first-time visitors, especially those who feel like they may not belong. In the past, we have offered free taxi rides to the market trying to make it easier for folks who do not have transportation, or need to consider gasoline costs every time they leave their home.
These sorts of thoughtful methods increasing accessibility to the best foods and enabling more people to participate in the thriving community that exists at the Farmers’ Market are much needed and much appreciated by the individuals that have come to rely on them. WIC parents are able to purchase fruit that their children love, without which they would be unable to afford.
This generosity, desire to be inclusive and community problem solving is what makes the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market; its vendors, volunteers, and shoppers so incredibly valuable. We as a community invite everyone to join us this season, in the Market’s 20th year.