he farmers markets in Alberton and Superior are small, but they carry a big message about promoting healthy communities.
Local residents can enjoy fresh locally grown foods and crafts and vendors get more value from direct sales. The community also benefits from more money being circulated through the local economy.
Farmers Market Coalition Executive Director Jen Cheek, said it’s important for Americans to know that the food they buy directly from their local farmer isn’t just more flavorful, but that this business has a very real impact on the livelihoods of the men and women who produced that food. “When they thrive, so do we. From vibrant community gathering places, to better access to wholesome produce, to protecting our environment through sustainable farming practices, we are all better off when local farmers and farmers markets succeed,” she said.
The Superior market was started by Peggy Stewart eight years ago. It’s open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon and is located in front of the Old Schoolhouse on River Street.
“It’s a good thing for people who can’t garden anymore and still want fresh foods,” Stewart said. “People usually arrive first thing in the morning and pick up fresh produce and browse around the other vendors.”
Last Saturday, Ruth Johnson was at the market selling knitted items and woodworking. Virginia English was also selling knitted items and said she usually sells a few items, plus gets a few more orders. She said it was worth it to be there and felt it was a good way to spend a sunny Saturday morning. Next to her sat Evan Pierce. He had a large board filled with rubbish pins he had made from a variety of bottle caps. Some were painted white and patrons could create their own pins, plus, he decorated a few himself. Stewart said Georgia had been there earlier in the day but had sold out of her produce and had already gone home by 11 a.m.
Milton Pierce had a number of plants on display, including spices like basil, rosemary, and sage, along with flowers and tomato plants. He runs a small greenhouse near Tricon Timber in St. Regis and has worked with food for years. He said a big thing these days is flavored water.
“Just add some cucumber and mint, or lemon and basil and it tastes good. Then people consume more water that way, and that’s good for you,” he said.
The items that can be added to water to improve the taste seem limitless, but he suggested things like lemon, oranges, even melons and lavender.
Pierce was also at the Alberton Market, which is held on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Kavita Bay’s honey-lemonade is a favorite for the locals. She and her husband, Justin, also have booths at the market in Missoula on Saturdays. There were also tables with fresh jams and jellies, more produce like cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and squash. Plus clothing, baked goods and other craft items.
Loreen Green recently took over as the market manager and said she would like to get a program going where they could accept SNAP, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and senior coupons. If that was available, vendors would be able to sell more product and low-income residents would be able to eat more healthy, locally grown food.
A recent press release announced that the Farmers Market Coalition would have funding available for free electronic benefit transfer (EBT) processing equipment offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program.
The program, administered by FMC and funded by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), had provided equipment necessary to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) to more than 1,000 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers across the country. Additional funding had been made available, and new applications are being accepted. Interested farmers markets and farmers can apply online through November of 2017. However, funding is limited, and available on a first-come, first-serve come basis. Green admits that the process will require a lot of paperwork but she’s ready to take on the task and hopes to see the market grow.