On October 2, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack helped to kick off the Nation’s harvest season by announcing nearly $35 million in new funding through four grant programs to support local and regional food systems, including farmers markets. The Historic Lewes Farmers Market received one of two Farmers Market Promotion Program grants awarded to Delaware entities.
The award amount of $99,229.99 was given to the HLFM to create a farmers market “Living Lab” for growth. The grant will be used not only to provide greater access to local fresh farm produce by supporting expansion of the market season, but also to identify best practices from the HLFM that can be shared with other markets across the country. Under the grant, the HLFM will help farmers develop value-added products, expand usage of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (food stamps) benefits, and provide marketing advice and support to improve market stalls. Board member Nancy Staisey reported “being thrilled that the work being done by the HLFM and the many volunteers who make the market possible was recognized as of national importance with this grant award.” She went on to say that “the HLFM has for many years been dedicated to building local, sustainable food systems – which is a fancy way of saying we create a community gathering where local sustainable farmers can sell their products and everyone in our community, residents and visitors alike, can buy local fresh wholesome foods. We brought SNAP (food stamps) into our market so that our entire community could have access to fresh locally-grown food. While we cannot use any of these funds on operational expenses, we will be able to help our farmers sell more and improve community access through better marketing methods and materials.”
Secretary Vilsack has named strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s efforts to revitalize rural economies and communities. Purchases of locally-produced food have surged to nearly $12 billion under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, while the number of farmers markets has leapt to more than 8,500 from 5,274 in 2009.