Community Farm Alliance Doubling Down on Double Dollars
BEREA, Ky. - Two summers ago, six farmers' markets in Kentucky were participating in cost-sharing support programs organized by the Community Farm Alliance. This summer it's up to 33 markets. For example, about two-dozen markets now are part of the Double Dollars program.
Martin Richards, executive director of the Community Farm Alliance (CFA), the nonprofit that oversees the program, said the program's dollar-for-dollar match encourages lower-income residents to buy more fresh produce.
"It helps Kentucky farmers. It puts more money in their pocket," he said. "It's making fresh, nutritious food more accessible to low-income folks who often have some nutrition-related health issues."
Double Dollars draws from three federal funding sources: SNAP, WIC and the Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. Richards said in many rural communities, 25 percent of the population participates in those federal programs.
The Community Farm Alliance also provides cost-sharing funds to help pay for a manager at 19 farmers' markets. Richards said when there's someone organizing the market who is not a vendor, it significantly increases a market's presence and, in turn, its sales.
"Somebody taking care of the advertising, the social media, compiling and filling out paperwork, all that kind of stuff," he added. "So, it just frees up the farmers to be farmers."
The latest example of increasing support comes from the state's Agricultural Development Board, which voted Friday to provide $78,000 this market season to the CFA's support programs.
Richards said along with the nearly three dozen markets, 775 farmers in 81 counties now are participating in the cost-sharing programs, and that's "building community."
"We require that the farmers' market put some skin into the game," he said. "They in turn reach out to their community to help support that, and it's been very successful in terms of building community collaboration."