White Salmon Farmers Market experiences growth

The White Salmon Farmers Market has seen growth in the areas of amount of cash brought in by vendors, number of participating vendors, and number of new vendors. The market also saw participation in the SNAP, WIC, and SFMNP programs, which were accessible at the market for the first time this year.

The White Salmon Farmers Market saw growth in multiple areas last summer, including gross sales totals for vendors.

White Salmon’s market, located at 320 E. Jewett Blvd. in the Feast parking lot, was open every Tuesday from July 1 to Sept. 30 over the summer. The market currently falls under the umbrella agency of Community Enrichment for Klickitat County (CEKC).

According to data compiled by market managers, approximately $37,500 flowed through the market via its vendors last summer. That’s a 44% increase compared to the summer of 2013.

“That’s really, really exciting,” said the White Salmon Farmers Market Manger Debi Budnick.

In addition to more money exchanging hands at the market, more vendors turned out to sell their goods. Throughout the summer, 22 vendors set up booths at the market, half of which were new.

Budnick and co-market-manager Bruce Bolme estimate that the market had between 12 and 14 vendors every week, some of which made the trip across the river just to come to the market.

“What I think this is saying is that people are still taking note. People are still discovering that White Salmon has a vibrant market and they’re giving it a try,” Budnick said.

Even before opening day this year, Budnick and others secured a way for more members of the community to access food from the farmers market. This summer was the first time those using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, could use those benefits at the market.

According to data compiled by Bolme, $566 worth of SNAP benefits were used at the market, and thanks to fiscal sponsors, including Skyline Hospital, White Salmon Chiropractic, and McCoy-Holliston, the market was able to offer a $5 bonus to every customer using food stamps at the market.

In all, the market contributed $145 to those using SNAP benefits through its fiscal sponsors.

Those on Women, Infants, Children (WIC) and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) were also able to use those benefits at the market. Those using the SFMNP spent $228 in vouchers at the White Salmon Farmers Market last summer, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. WIC clients spent $68, according to the Washington State Department of Health’s WIC office.

The market was able to provide $75 in bonuses for those two programs, coming to a total of $371 spent at the market by WIC and SFMNP customers.

The total amount spent at the market through all of its food access programs, which includes SNAP, SFMNP, WIC, and the match program, comes to $1,082.

“When people came to me and said they wanted $25 or $30 from their food stamp card they were consistently upbeat. They were doing something that they were happy about and I noticed that consistently,” Bolme said.

The market also became a member of the Washington State Farmers Market Association this year. Budnick said she was originally asked by the association to apply to become a regional lead when it comes to promoting access to farmers markets for SNAP, WIC, and SFMNP beneficiaries, but said as the market manager and the public health education for the Klickitat County Health Department just didn’t have time for the extra task.

That said, she was still excited for the opportunity and passed it on to Todd Dierker, food access programs manager with Gorge Grown Food Network.

“The cool thing is that the state looked at our region and thought that there is real potential there,” Budnick said.

Dierker said by becoming a regional lead, Gorge Grown will be able to provide further support to the farmers markets in Stevenson, White Salmon, Trout Lake, and Goldendale when it comes to implementing new resources or programs that will encourage and support low-income access to farm fresh foods.

In addition to promoting farmers markets throughout the region, Gorge Grown will be able to help markets that don’t have access to SNAP, WIC, or SFMNP benefits acquire the means to do so.

“Stevenson had a couple of vendors that applied on their own to accept SNAP and the Gorge Grown mobile truck can accept SNAP, but at this point Goldendale and Trout Lake don’t have SNAP capabilities, so that would be one of our areas of focus,” Dierker said.

Gorge Grown will also be piloting a “vegetable prescription” program in 2015 that will offer further access to food at farmers markets to low-income customers partially thanks to becoming a regional lead.

Despite the White Salmon market’s successes over the last summer, there are always areas to work on. For example, Budnick would like more programs for kids and Bolme wants to recruit even more vendors for next year.

More community involvement is also on Budnick’s wish list for next year’s market. Last summer, eight community groups provided educational opportunities and information, including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the White Salmon Community Library, Klickitat County Solid Waste, the White Salmon Community Youth Center, Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, the Boy Scouts of America, Master Food Preservers, and White Salmon Community Youth Soccer.

There were also three special programs provided by the market, including two cooking classes for seniors and one three-day farm-to-school unit for Henkle Middle School.

“I think there’s always a little bit of anxiety around recruiting enough vendors, so we just want to encourage lots of people to come over and try it. What we hear from everybody is that they really like our market and they love coming to White Salmon,” Budnick said.

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