USDA Spending $167,650 to Lure Customers to D.C. Farmers' Markets

June 20, 2013 - 10:03 AM

Farmers Markets

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012. The federal government announced it is spending $4 million to make such markets more accessible to food stamp recipients. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)

( - The U.S Department of Agriculture has awarded $167,650 in grants to increase participation in Washington, D.C. farmers markets.

The two grants, part of the department's Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), run from Sept. 2012 through September 2014. The grants include $94,150 to DC Greens Inc. and $73,500 to the University of the District of Columbia.

According to the USDA release on the awards, The DC Greens Inc. program received $94,150 to:
“1) increase customer participation at 4 farmers markets; and 2) reach low income and Federal nutrition benefit recipients in the market neighborhoods, with a targeted outreach into neighboring communities, direct mailings, cooking demonstrations, and improved market signage, resulting in better health for market patrons and an increase in sales for 40 farmers.”

Pamela Stanziani of the Agricultural Marketing Service division of the USDA told in an e-mail, “Grant programs like FMPP helps growers and producers generate additional sales through market promotion and advertising assistance.”

“It helps make fresh, healthy produce more accessible to consumers by supporting the establishment of new farmers markets or enhancing the operation of existing farmers markets.  FMPP also makes it easy for consumers who participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to use their Federal benefits to buy produce at farmers markets using EBT machines.”

Jezra Thompson, Food Access Program Director for DC Greens, tells her organization's efforts include more than cooking demonstrations and increased signage.

“We are approaching our outreach campaign through a grassroots effort,” Thompson said.

“We are going to meetings, we are working with people from the community that are invested in the same projects we are working on and the same mission that DC Greens is about; which is connecting DC residents to more healthy, affordable food.”

“It also helps that we are letting people know that they can spend their federal benefits at the farmer’s market, not everyone knows that you can spend your SNAP or WIC at the farmers market.”

The University of the District of Columbia received a grant of $73,500 under the USDA program, in order to establish two new farmers markets in a low-income neighborhood and provide transportation options for seniors to travel there.

“Ultimately, these activities are designed to support farmers and producers who are engaging in direct farm-to-consumer marketing initiatives with their efforts to effectively market agricultural products to consumers,” Stanziani says.

“In turn, these farmers sell their produce to consumers, and these consumers benefit by receiving access to fresh, healthy, nutritious produce.”