The Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets (MFFM) is celebrating farmers’ markets across the state with Maine Farmers’ Markets Snapshot Week 2020. Coinciding with National Farmers’ Market Week, Snapshot Week is an annual event for the farmers’ market community to celebrate their markets, share stories, and capture photos and data to illustrate the importance of farmers’ markets to Maine communities. Due to Covid-19, for this year’s activities MFFM will host a virtual photo and essay contest in celebration of Maine’s vibrant and resilient farmers’ market community.
This summer, there are over 100 farmers’ markets across Maine providing a safe place for people to shop for locally-produced food. With growing concern over the covid-19 pandemic, shoppers looked to farmers’ markets as a safer alternative to indoor shopping as early as March. Market managers, mostly farmers who sell at market, swiftly responded to the ongoing updates and changes regarding best practices for shopper and farmer safety. “Farmers spent a lot of our free time this winter and spring learning about public health and disease prevention,” says Mark Guzzi, co-owner of Peacemeal Farm and MFFM Board Chair.
“Behind nearly every single farmers’ market, there is a group of farmers who vigilantly re-organized their market to create the safest environment possible to serve their community” says Jimmy DeBiasi, Director of Programs at MFFM.
Many markets report seeing new shoppers as a result of Covid-19. Markets also report that seedling sales dramatically rose, which is a result of many more people building and expanding their gardens this year. “The community connection has never been stronger”, DeBiasi says, “we hear from farmers and shoppers alike that they’ve never felt so closely connected to each other, despite the face coverings and social distancing!”.
In addition to being a safe place for people to shop for fresh food in the fresh air, farmers’ markets are also a critical food access point for thousands of shoppers who use their SNAP/EBT card at the market. The Maine Harvest Bucks program gives SNAP/EBT shoppers matching bonus bucks to buy fresh produce at 36 farmers’ markets. Thousands of households have signed up for SNAP due to economic hardship from the pandemic, which has resulted in an increase in SNAP participation at farmers’ markets. MFFM reports a 33% increase in SNAP spending at farmers’ markets for April and May of 2020 compared to 2019. “Our market is playing a critical role in our community’s resilience during this pandemic. We’re helping to provide food security to a lot of folks who are experiencing increased hardship right now.” says Noami Brautigam, President of the Belfast Farmers’ Market.
Shoppers can find a farmers’ market near them, and participate in the 2020 Snapshot Week contest, by visiting www.mainefarmersmarkets.org
MFFM’s mission is to cultivate a vibrant, sustainable farmers’ market community as a vital part of Maine’s local food network. The Federation works with farmers, consumers, and communities to make wholesome, locally-grown foods available to all residents, to educate consumers about food resources, and to support farm viability.