Celebrating Farmers' Market Month and the Heroes Keeping Markets Accessible
In early July, a company called Novo Dia sent shockwaves through the farmers’ market community nationwide when it announced it was going out business. Novo Dia makes software that allows farmers’ markets to accept payments from SNAP customers (those enrolled in the federal food assistance program known in California as CalFresh). Their decision meant that within weeks, thousands of farmers and farmers’ markets would lose the ability to accept payments from SNAP customers and would no longer be able to use the equipment that they had purchased to access Novo Dia’s software and apps. For many of those impacted, the cost of replacement equipment for SNAP processing might be more than they can afford. Novo Dia’s lack of advance notice of their shutdown also meant farmers’ markets were potentially facing weeks or months without the ability to make sales to SNAP customers.
Imagine if you walked into your favorite coffeeshop and were told that their cash registers would not be working for another month or that it would be six weeks before you could pay for your coffee with your credit or debit card. This is the situation that the SNAP customers were potentially facing at their local farmers’ markets.
As of today, the impacted farmers and farmers’ markets have been extended a temporary lifeline. The Farmers Market Coalition launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for farmers’ markets to purchase new SNAP processing equipment. The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Professionals, which previously partnered with Novo Dia, agreed to pay Novo Dia to stay in business through the end of August. Subsequently, the state of New York and the Farmers Market Federation of New York agreed to pay Novo Dia to stay in business until the end of the February. Ultimately, the situation for farmers’ market nationwide is the same – they must still purchase new equipment to continue serving SNAP customers. Only the deadline has changed.
In California, we are extremely fortunate that our state has long been committed to supporting access for CalFresh customers at farmers’ markets and that the state of California chose not to contract with Novo Dia. As a result, no farmers’ market at PCFMA or anywhere else in the state was directly impacted.
While PCFMA was insulated from the direct impacts, we felt an obligation try to help. PCFMA has actively promoted the GoFundMe campaign started by the Farmers Market Coalition through social media. A post on PCFMA’s Facebook page promoting the campaign has reached nearly 4,600 persons, not bad for a page with 2,500 followers. PCFMA has also made a donation of $1,500 to the campaign; enough for at least two farmers’ markets to replace their equipment. We believe that farmers’ markets are essential elements of strong, sustainable local food systems and that farmers’ markets are best able to serve their farmers and their communities when those markets are accessible to all customers. That is why we support CalFresh at our farmers’ markets and encourage CalFresh customers to shop our farmers’ markets by participating in the statewide Market Match program.
In August, we mark Farmers’ Market Month, a time to celebrate what farmers’ markets mean for our food system and our communities. As this month of celebration kicks off, we extend our thanks to the Farmers Market Coalition, the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Professionals, the Farmers Market Federation of New York, and the state of New York for all leaping into action as this crisis emerged. They are heroes to the farmers and farmers’ markets affected and to all of us at PCFMA.