Moving Forward? Or Covering Our Butts?


Last year about this time, our farmers market was making a big leap forward: becoming the first market in the state of South Dakota to accept food stamps (SNAP) on approved foods.

The hurdles weren’t huge, but they were daunting–navigating the USDA-FNS forms that were not set up for organizations like ours, figuring out the best system for our vendors and customers, and securing a grant to help pay for equipment and advertising costs.

But we did it–we had our first SNAP sale on the first day of the market, and went on to help our vendors make several hundred dollars of SNAP sales throughout the course of the season.

This winter seems a bit of a let-down for me–not because we aren’t doing important work, but because so much of that work seems less of a leap forward than a turning around and covering our butts from legislation and regulation that seems prepared to nip us if we don’t take steps to prevent it from doing so.

It’s great that so many have come forward to fight against the one-size-fits-all food safety regulations that require an unnecessary burden of record-keeping and registration fees on even the smallest mom-and-pop producers and processors.  I’m glad to be a part of the push for a state rule on non-hazardous foods direct-to-consumer sales.

It’s also good to be in preliminary talks with the City about providing an exemption for farmers market vendors from the city’s “Green River” or “itinerant merchant” statute.

Only a few weeks ago, we were totally unaware of the rule’s existence, and now we are gathering research on other towns, cities, and states that provide market vendor exemptions (and there are quite a few).  I’m not sure how that will all pan out yet, but we are hopeful that some accommodation can be made.

Despite all this movement–this work, this season’s ventures seem a little less like looking forward and a little more like looking back, shoring up, trying to stabilize the ground we’re already standing on.  It’s doesn’t feel exactly like progress–not like last year’s work did.

Still, I am trying to maintain a positive outlook–work is work and it needs to get done–and I have always enjoyed a bit of hardcore primary research, writing, and lobbying.

There’s still plenty of possible points of progression for this season–the chance of a downtown weekend market as a satellite to our mothership Thursday event, maybe a little work on trying to accept WIC, possibly some fun educational or entertainment events.

So, chin up! Full steam ahead toward a bounteous market season.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Claire on January 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    WIC would be great! They finally started giving out fresh produce vouchers a few months ago. Not sure if it would be worth it for you guys at the market, but a lot of people have WIC in Vermillion so maybe it would be worth the paperwork in the end.

    What are these “itinerant merchant” “Green River” things you are talking about?? Could you post a link or a description?

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on January 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Claire–
    You can look at the Green River Law Wiki and it’ll give you some idea–basically itinerant merchant or peddler restrictions towns put in place. Some just apply to door-to-door sales, some apply to any sales within city limits by an outsider.

    I have seen the WIC-approved stickers in the produce area at Jones’, which made me think it might be good to start up the pursuit on that again. One of our board members is a County Health Nurse, so she is willing to help push on that.

  3. Posted by d mci on January 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Don’t know if this is useful to you. NC state law, exemptions to Green River Law for itinerant merchants and vendors at farmers’ markets. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/ByArticle/Chapter_66/Article_32.pdf

  4. Posted by flyingtomato on January 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Yes, it is! I had found that pdf and was planning on sending a link to our City Manager! Thanks for your help.

    –re.

  5. If you’re at liberty to tell, I’d be interested in hearing how the Green River ordinance got on your radar. Did the City bring it up?

  6. Posted by flyingtomato on January 20, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Yes, the City Manager mentioned it when I went in to talk to him about using the public plaza downtown for a Saturday satellite market.

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