Happy National Farmers Market week! It is the height of the growing season, and Maine markets are bursting with beans, tomatoes, summer squashes, new potatoes, basil, blueberries, cucumbers, and SO much more. This is a great opportunity to celebrate and support your local producers by attending a market near you (though in our minds, every week is Farmers Market week!)
Maine’s farmers markets have blossomed over the past 15 years. Today there are over 100 farmers markets in almost that many towns across the state, each offering a growing variety of local goods, including seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey and maple syrup, all manner of meats and dairy, flowers, baked goods, and prepared foods. Thanks to the diversity of market offerings and growing awareness about farmers market accessibility and affordability, Maine farmers markets are increasingly becoming a one stop shop for customers from all walks.
Our local Belfast Farmers Market, held every Friday from 9am-1pm at Waterfall Arts, is a testament to this growing abundance, diversity, and accessibility. Several farms sell fresh produce—mostly organic—with a continually changing selection of vegetables. Cheese vendors like Appleton Creamery have a variety of soft and hard cheeses from cows and goats. Pemaquid Lobster and Seafood brings the freshest catch from local waters, Fire Flower Garden has a vibrant display of flowers next door to Savage Oakes winery, and there’s beef, chicken and even water buffalo! Gardiner’s Honey and Pollination provides honey, Freyenhagen Family Farm has maple syrup, and a couple of stands sell ready-to-eat treats to satisfy your sweet tooth—including gluten-free snacks from Suecakes! You can enjoy a fresh crepe filled with anything from scapes to strawberries, or a sheep’s-milk ice cream sandwich. And two weeks ago, Burke Hill Farm was there selling the first Maine blueberries.
Over the past couple years, MFT has worked with partners around the state to help make this great bounty more accessible to everyone. At the Belfast Farmers Market, MFT sets up a booth at the market every week to provide Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) support. This means that anyone with SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) can use their EBT card to buy food at the market. Special incentive funding from the nonprofit nutrition organization Wholesome Wave gives EBT customers 25% off of all of their food purchases, making local, fresh food more affordable for those on a tight budget. This is win-win: farmers get more sales and new customers, and more people can access of fresh, local produce. The machine also accepts credit and debit cards, which is handy for those who don’t like carrying around a lot of cash (although there is a pesky 3% transaction fee for using cards).
In October, we’ll move with the market to its winter location at Aubuchon Hardware. But for now, we’re enjoying the sunshine and the accompanying abundance. This National Farmers Market Week, maybe you’ll swing by the market and meet your farmers for the first time, or pledge to make your farmers market part of your weekly routine!
Check out Maine Federation of Farmers Markets website to find a farmers market near you!
Want more information on how to accept EBT/SNAP benefits at your market? Contact Mike Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org.