Council approves to appropriate Haymaker Farmers’ Market grant

Brittany Nader

Haymaker Farmers’ Market received a $38,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in September 2012 to promote greater use of the Electronic Benefits Transfer technology so low-to-moderate-income families are able to purchase fresh and nutritious food within walking distance from their homes.

Kent City Council approved to appropriate these grant funds at Wednesday’s meeting. Council also authorized staff to enter an agreement with the market to perform the activities covered by the grant, which include marketing and advertising the Market’s EBT machine.

The EBT card, known as the Ohio Direction Card, provides food assistance benefits that are assigned to users each month, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services website.

Through the Farmers’ Market Demonstration Project, families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — benefits can purchase healthy foods at farmers’ markets.

Bridget Susel, Kent’s interim community development director, is acting as the grants administrator on behalf of the city. She said the Market’s use of the EBT machine allows families to purchase healthy food and support the community. The grant will, also, help with promoting the technology.

“The grant will help get people to the market who do not usually eat healthy foods because they can get cheaper food with their EBT card at big-box grocery stores,” Susel said. “We want to show children there’s healthy food available.”

People who receive SNAP benefits can purchase tokens, using the market’s EBT machine, to buy fresh food, Kelly Ferry, Haymaker Farmers’ Market manager, wrote in an email.

“We hope to offer a double value of SNAP tokens once per month,” Ferry wrote. “[And offer] cooking demos geared to easy, inexpensive recipes provided by the Campus Kitchen at KSU.”

Susel said the grant will help draw more low-income families to the market and will keep them returning every Saturday. With council’s recent approval, the market can move its plans to implement marketing for the EBT technology forward.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Susel said. “Farmers can sell their food, and the food will be available to low-income households.”

Ami Gignac, co-owner of Breakneck Acres in Ravenna, began selling whole grains, flour, cornmeal and heirloom beans at the market in 2011.

Gignac said she started farming as a hobby, and then eventually made it her career. She found it more profitable and sustainable to sell products directly to consumers, and farmers’ markets allow her to do that.

“The best part of joining the market has been the ability to get to know the community,” Gignac said. “This community supports local business and makes good food a priority. There are over 50 vendors at the market and 1,000 customers, and they’re looking to you for good, healthy food.”

Breakneck Acres is a certified organic farm, which also sells produce, free-range eggs and corn. Gignac said she hopes to eventually begin selling meat from livestock that eats organic feed.

Gignac said she has enjoyed being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle and share her nutritious food with others.

“We’re able to touch the community and show that you don’t need a lot of money to make a great meal,” Gignac said. “Groups of people who come in with SNAP dollars might not know what [food] is in season. We’re able to educate and give them cooking demonstrations, then they can come down to Breakneck Acres and buy the [ingredients].”

Phil Bartholomae, co-owner of Breezy Hill Farm in Homeworth, sells fresh organic vegetables, including spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots and bok choy at the market. He said all the food he sells is harvested the day before it is sold, and the vegetables can last up to two weeks compared to food purchased at grocery stores.

“The food hasn’t been flown around the world, so it’s absolutely fresh,” Bartholomae said. “The salad mix you buy in the grocery store, the lettuce was probably packaged weeks or months ago. It’s packaged with nitrogen, which keeps it fresh in the package, but once you open it, it goes downhill.”

Bartholomae said Breezy Hill has been in business for five years and started selling its food at the market last winter. The farm focuses on growing “nutrient-dense” food that is grown without the use of chemicals.

According to the Haymaker Farmers’ Market website, part of the market’s mission is to provide high-quality, fresh and nutritious agricultural products and baked goods to the Kent community.

“Local produce is higher in nutrients than produce that has been shipped from far away,” Ferry wrote.

The indoor market is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 211 Cherry St. through May 18. The outdoor market will be open under the Haymaker overpass at Franklin Avenue and Summit Street from May 26 through Oct. 27.

Contact Brittany Nader at [email protected].