In the Market: 21st Century Farmers’ Markets Program

by | Feb 11, 2010

With our In the Market feature, we’ll visit the State Farmers Market with nutrition marketing specialist Freda Butner to learn about nutrition facts, recipe tips and ways to maximize your local foods shopping experiences across the state.

A statewide initiative is making it possible for farmers markets in North Carolina to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer card payments from consumers who are in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The 21st Century Farmers’ Markets Program is a partnership between the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Leaflight Inc., a Chapel Hill non-profit agency that promotes community development.

To get an introduction to the program in a space where it’s actually benefiting North Carolinians, we talked with Freda Butner, nutrition marketing specialist, for this post.

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Like Freda mentions, many small farmers markets weren’t set up to accept EBT cards, which nutrition-assistance recipients use to pay for food. The cards, which are issued in North Carolina by the Division of Social Services, replaced paper food stamp coupons nationwide in 2002. The lack of EBT technology at farmers markets limited nutrition-assistance recipients’ access to fresh seasonal produce grown in North Carolina and hindered sales by N.C. farmers.

The 21st Century Farmers’ Market Program originally enabled 12 farmers markets to accept EBT, credit and debit cards. Some of the original participating markets were: Asheville City Market; Columbus County Community Farmers Market, Whiteville; Madison County Farmers and Artisans Market, Mars Hill; Rockingham County Farmers’ Market, Reidsville; Yancey County Farmers Market, Burnsville.

Other markets have also begun to adopt the program, so check with your local market to see if it accepts cards.