A customer picks up fresh corn and other garden varieties from Sharon St. Onge, owner of Super C’s Farm in Grand Forks. Photo: Submitted

A customer picks up fresh corn and other garden varieties from Sharon St. Onge, owner of Super C’s Farm in Grand Forks. Photo: Submitted

Fruitvale Farmers Market plants new program

Connecting Local Growers to Community With BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupons

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A program that feeds low-income households fresh, nutritious food is being served up at Fruitvale’s Farmers Market, and if the thriving participation at their sister market in Trail is any indication, the benefits will be incrEDIBLE-y fruitful. Funded by the provincial government and run by BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM), the Nutrition Coupon Program entitles enrolled participants to a minimum of $27/week in coupons to use on local product available at Fruitvale’s Farmers Market, located on Pole Yard Lane in downtown Fruitvale. Seniors, families, expectant mothers, and other lower-income residents can register for the program through the Beaver Valley Food Bank to begin filling their baskets with the delicious bounty the region has to offer.

The Fruitvale’s Farmers Market (FFM) committee is thrilled to roll out the program, which has been very successful at Trail’s IncrEDIBLE Farmers Market (TIFM) for the past five years. They also recognize how beneficial it will be in supporting a sustainable economy in the rural area.

“There’s a need for supplemented resources in Fruitvale because of its large elderly community,” one FFM committee member explains. “Many residents are reliant on what’s available in their own community, especially those who don’t drive or have limited mobility. The market brings variety to the village, and the coupon program opens up another opportunity for low-income people to access more nutritious food while benefiting local agricultural producers.”

In addition to encouraging coupon-users to buy and eat healthy, locally-grown food rather than settling for discount options at large grocers, agricultural producers are extending and expanding their growing season to meet the program’s demand — a win/win for the village as a whole.

Gina Ironmonger, manager of TIFM, celebrates the connection the community has established with their local makers, bakers, and growers.

“We have seen a definite increase in demand this season,” she shares. “Our market is really inclusive and the program promotes dialogue between coupon-users and farmers. Relationships are established and the farmers often share really cool recipes, or even how to take a chicken and make a bunch of different meals out

of it — shoppers learn how far one piece of meat can go. It’s nice to see that and I think it says an awful lot about the giving attitude of our community.”

According to Trail United Church Food Bank volunteer Marylynn Rakuson, 178 households have enrolled in the Trail program so far this year, compared to 173 in 2021.

“The program is absolutely invaluable for those facing food insecurity. We’re serving more families, and we’re steadily handing out more coupons,” Rakuson says. “There’s been an increase of about 10% since 2021 and we’re not even through 2022 yet. Food bank numbers go down in the summer because people are accessing fresh produce at the market. The participants are very thankful for the assistance because produce is so expensive now; the cost of food has just skyrocketed.”

The FFM committee hopes the program will entice more vendors to join the market family, nourishing the connection between the vibrant Fruitvale community and its local producers.

“We’re investing in the market’s future,” adds the FFM committee member. “It will have all the benefits that Trail offers. If people support Fruitvale’s market, then more vendors will come too. I think the coupon program will bring out more people and that’s great for the market, the community, and the producers.” To join the market family, vendors can register at https://trailfarmersmarket.com/vendor-sign-up/. Shoppers can enroll for the program through the Beaver Valley Food Bank and pick up their coupons at Fruitvale’s Farmers Market every other Tuesday from 3-6 pm, now until October. The coupons will be valid through December 18, 2022.

Farmers marketsKootenays