System allows the market to accept federal food aid and credit cards
By ALEX GREGOR
The Davidson Farmer’s Market is making it easier to pay for fresh food. A new electronic card reader allows patrons to pay with credit and debit cards. Customers can also redeem government benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.
The market’s 2009 regular season is over. It will be back next Saturday, Nov. 21, for the next in a planned series of holiday markets. It will open slightly later than its regular season hours – 9 a.m. – and run through noon, in its location next to Town Hall. (Updated: We originally said incorrectly that the market would be open this weekend. It is not.)
With the new payment option, when customers swipe their cards, they receive wooden tokens in exchange — $5 tokens for credit or debit purchases, $1 tokens for EBT benefits. Patrons can use these tokens to pay for food at stands operated by almost all of the market’s vendors. Signs with the words “We Accept Tokens” will now be prominently displayed by the businesses that are participating in the program.
“One of our original goals was to make sure that as many people as possible had access to fresh food.”
Mary Jane Leach, market manager
The new card reader comes as part of the Davidson Market’s participation in the 21st Century Farmers’ Markets program, an initiative sponsored by the USDA and Leaflight of Chapel Hill. As part of this program, Davidson’s Market joins a growing number of farmers’ markets that are trying to make fresh produce accessible to more people across North Carolina. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are often prohibitively expensive. The card reader will make shopping at the market more convenient for everyone but the managers and vendors of the Davidson Market are especially hopeful that by accepting EBT payments, they can increase the number of people who can afford to shop from local farmers on Saturday mornings.
Mary Jane Leach, manager of the Davidson Farmer’s Market, says that “one of our original goals was to make sure that as many people as possible had access to fresh food.” Although the Market launched the new program two weeks ago, it’s still trying to get its advertising efforts off the ground. Ms. Leach says, “we’re going to have to do a really hard marketing push through Ada Jenkins to make inroads into different communities and churches to spread the word. That will be new territory for us. We’ll work with the town and community partners. Ada Jenkins will be our primary partner and will do a lot of the marketing. If they can put something in someone’s hands and show them about it, hopefully we’ll get some folks who don’t normally get fresh food.”
Ms. Leach is excited about the potential of the new program. “It’s just opened up a lot of creative ways for people to buy food at the market,” she says. People can redeem their own tokens for food coming directly from farmers at the market.
“It’s also possible for people to buy tokens and use them as gifts. If a farmer has a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture buying program], someone can use their tokens and EBT card to join a CSA.”