Year-Round Access to Locally Grown Fruits and Vegetables Now a Reality For Many as Farmers Markets Stay Open Through Winter Months
by Ashley Gaudiano
This winter, farmers markets across the country are keeping their doors open for extended seasons. According to the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there is a 52 percent increase in winter markets from the previous year. Of the directory’s 7,865 accounted for farmers markets, nearly 24 percent – or 1,864 – are winter markets. Among Wholesome Wave partners, this upward trend appears to hold true. Of our partners’ more than 300 spring & summer markets, at least 50 are remaining open for business year-round or through the winter months.
For the first time, Wholesome Wave extended the duration of the Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) grant funding period. In prior years, the grant season – the season during which partners could use funding at markets for incentive programs – ended in December. In contrast, this year’s grant season ends in March 2013, allowing partners to use DVCP funding for incentives at year-round and winter markets. According to Maggie Reynolds, Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program Manager, “extending the DVCP to winter markets is about making sure that the access to affordable, local, healthy fruits and vegetables is available year round in our partners’ communities.”
USDA’s Arthur Neal, Deputy Administrator AMS Transportation and Marketing, attributes the increase in winter markets to the rise in “cost-effective options” such as hoop houses and affordable greenhouse heating options. This, he says allows small and mid-sized farmers to extend their growing seasons, which makes year-round markets more viable. (See USDA Blog, Innovation Helps Fuel Growth for Winter Farmers Markets).
For many DVCP consumers, the year-round availability of local produce allows for significant behavior change; consumers are now able to have continued access to fresh, locally grown produce year-round at an affordable price. In addition, the increase in winter markets also directly impacts farmers who see an increase in revenue as a result of the lengthened season.
Winter markets also provide an opportunity for DVCP consumers to continue supporting the farmers they developed relationships with over the summer market season. According to a report by The Indypendent, Mariam Arayi-Rivera, a DVCP consumer and Food Stamp recipient in New York City, voluntarily signed up for the winter share of a Project Harmony CSA at a price of $20 more per month than what she paid in the summer. Mariam told the Indypendent, that she insisted on doing so “because she felt committed to Claudio the farmer.”
For a full list of winter markets in your area, click here.