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OTA Town Hall Meeting in South Florida

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Join FOG and the OTA on October 12th in Homestead, Florida

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) cordially invite you to a Farmer Town Hall Meeting to take place on October 12, 2012 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at the Miami-Dade County Extension building in Homestead, Florida. FOG is looking for farmer input regarding a number of critical issues that can affect or benefit sustainable and organic agriculture in the state of Florida.  FOG’s Executive Director Marty Mesh and OTA’s Executive Vice-President Laura Batcha will be the there leading the discussion.

Meeting Agenda:

  1. Organic Research and Promotion Program. Marty and Laura will introduce you to a promising initiative for the organic sector, the Organic Research and Promotion Order. This initiative has the potential to provide support for organic research and marketing in the long term. After the presentation of the program, Marty and Laura will ask for your valuable input, so as to understand whether or not you are supportive of this initiative. As organic farmers and/or processors your input is crucial.
  2. Marty Mesh will provide an update on the Farm Bill and the potential consequences for conservation and agriculture.
  3. Marty Mesh will provide an update and lead discussion on Food Safety issues. He will also share info on FOG’s new food safety certification cost-share program.
  4. A listening session, where you will freely express your challenges and needs in terms of producing and marketing your crops. This information will be critical so that FOG can prioritize and identify the projects that are most relevant and beneficial to you.
  5. Other announcements and information, including how to use Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) programs to help your farm, and FOG’s new farmer’s market initiative that will equip about 20 markets across Florida with EBT Technology and incentives for specialty crops.

Your input is key to the success of this event, come ready to talk and share!

 

Refreshments will be provided.

Address: 18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL 33030-2309

 

While you’re in the area, don’t forget…

There will also be a Free Organic Workshop on October 11 in Homestead. Then, stick around for some fun at GrowFest! over the weekend! 

 

For more information call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org.

 

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Celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

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A delicious spread at a farmers market in Pinecrest, Florida.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5th through 11th, 2012 as National Farmers Market Week!

During each day of National Farmers Market Week, the Farmers Market Coalition will celebrate a theme and highlight the accomplishments of stand-out markets in towns across America.

In honor of National Farmers Market Week 2012, the Farmers Market Coalition is hosting the Farmers Market Inspiration Award.  For a grand prize of $1,000, farmers/producers at farmers markets from all corners of the nation are invited to submit essays that depict concrete examples of how farmers markets have impacted their lives and businesses.  The deadline for entries is August 11th, the last day of Farmers Market week. This award is a partnership between the Farmers Market Coalition and Growing for Market, conducted in concert with the American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest. Click the link to learn more about the Farmers Market Coalition Inspiration Award.

Beautiful flowers decorate a table at a farmers market in Cape Coral, Florida.

We’d love to hear from you!

Which Florida Farmers Market did you vote for as your favorite? Why? Do you have a great farmers market story to share? If you do write an essay to send in for the Farmers Market Inspiration Award, we’ll publish it here on the FOG Blog even if you don’t win. So send in your essays!

We’ll see you at the farmers market!

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Departmental Spotlight – EBT

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Florida Organic Growers for two years has run a booth providing SNAP benefit -commonly, Food Stamp- transfers at various farmers’ markets in Alachua County. In that time, the booth’s operational costs have been covered by various municipal grants; however, as municipal budgets tighten and the program matures, it is incumbent upon us to find a new way to fund the booth if it is to remain a part of the area farmers’ markets.

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program is an aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Originally the Food Stamp Program, started in the late 1930s as a response to widespread unemployment and massive food surpluses that existed during the height of the depression. Having ended in 1943, the program was reauthorized in 1959 with bipartisan support. During the incoming Kennedy Administration it was made permanent so as to make available “… to all needy families a greater variety and quantity of food out of our agricultural abundance.” [exec.ord. 10914]

In the fifty-three years since, the program has had regular revisions in step with political, ideological, and technological changes. One such technological change was a move in the late nineties to phase out the old green-and-brown stamps system in favor of an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card to be used like a credit or debit card. This was done to make the system more consistent, more accountable, and less susceptible to fraud. With the move to an electronic payment system however, the retail food market became fragmented; those consumers receiving SNAP benefits were effectively shut out from any part of the market unable to handle electronic transactions. Two such parts of the excluded market are small and medium farmers who sell direct to the consumer.

Directly selling to consumers remains a vital part of many farmers’ income. While most farm output is irrevocably tied up in larger grocery vendor systems, farmers often maintain an amount of excess or specialty crops that would otherwise go unsold. Many farmers elect to take part in regional farmers’ markets as a way to sell those products – often at significant a discount relative to grocery stores. Often, these Markets are located close to populations that are underserved by most of the retail food market. Indeed, in Alachua County, the farmers’ markets FOG maintains an EBT booth at border regions the USDA has labeled as being without basic access to large grocery stores or similar outlets.

 

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EBT

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FOG offers SNAP recipients (formerly food stamps) the opportunity use their benefits to purchase food at two farmers markets in Alachua County; the Saturday Alachua County Farmers Market, and the Wednesday Union Street Farmers Market.  Debit/Credit capabilities also available.

WHO CAN USE THIS SERVICE?

EBT technology allows those with SNAP benefits (food stamps) to use their EBT cards at the farmers markets to purchase acceptable items.

Those who wish to use debit or credit cards will also be able to use their cards at the market, for a $2 convenience charge, much like an ATM, that will assist in funding the continuing availability of the project’s continuation.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The project uses a token system to enable customers with EBT, Debit or Credit Cards to shop at the farmers markets. Here’s how it works:

1. A customer swipes the EBT, Debit or Credit card at the central POS terminal and enters the PIN.
2. The FOG staff enters the amount of tokens requested into the terminal.
3. Once the transaction is approved, the customer is given a transaction receipt and tokens.
4. The customer then uses the tokens at any participating vendor’s stand.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

The Union Street Farmers Market is highly accessible in downtown Gainesville at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. It is in close proximity to the Rosa Parks RTS Downtown Station servicing numerous bus routes, and to social service agencies and meal sites. The Alachua County Farmers Market at the SE corner of the intersection of State Road 121 (NW 34th Street), and U.S. 441 (NW 13th Street), 3.2 miles north of University Avenue, is also easily accessible from areas of the urban Gainesville and rural Alachua County community, and by bus routes from Gainesville.

WHY SHOULD I SHOP AT THE FARMERS MARKET?

A diet consisting of at least five servings (2 to 3 cups) of fruits and vegetables daily decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. Those who consume eight or more servings are 22 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who consume three or fewer servings a day. Buying from a farmers market means you’re able to purchase food often picked within a couple days of the market date, so its nutritional quality is still high, and it oftentimes hasn’t traveled across the country using valuable fuel resources. It also means your dollar is going back into the local economy, helping the farmers and other business owners in the community.

WHAT ELSE WILL BE OFFERED?

The on-site market booth will be an informational and education hub, with community resources on gardening, cooking, community events and opportunities. It will also provide a place where people can enroll in SNAP on a laptop or paper application.