Farmers Market Nutrition Program: Cultivating More than Fresh Produce
Unlike other parts of our country with colder climates, North Texas operates outdoor farmers markets year-round, providing a consistent source of local, fresh produce to the community. While North Texas farmers grow and sell local produce throughout the year, we don’t all have the same access to farmers markets depending on what neighborhoods we live in, what transportation we have access to, or how much we can afford to spend on groceries.
One step toward addressing these barriers to access is the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, operated by Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) on behalf of the Texas Department of Agriculture in collaboration with Tarrant County WIC. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides low-income pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding women and children ages 1-5 with vouchers to buy fresh produce from authorized farmers markets. In Tarrant County, they are call Neighborhood Farmers Markets.
When families have access to fresh, local produce, they can help their children eat healthier meals and support family farmers with their purchasing power. In addition to accepting WIC vouchers, farmers at these Neighborhood Farmers Markets also accept SNAP/EBT, cash and card.
This year, Neighborhood Farmers Market locations include the Dan Dipert Career + Technical Center in Arlington; Christ Lutheran Church and Grace Temple SDA Church in Fort Worth; The Wisdom Center in Haltom City; and the Cowtown Farmers Market at its regular location on the Weatherford Traffic Circle in west Fort Worth. Spread across the county, these markets are open to everyone. Check the schedule to see which one is closest to your neighborhood at https://tafb.org/farmers-market/.
WHO GROWS YOUR FOOD?
Two Farmers Market Associations vend at Neighborhood Farmers Markets in Tarrant County: Grow North Texas and Cowtown Farmers Market Association. But if farmers markets are such a great resource for our communities to access fresh produce and homemade goods, why aren’t there already ample markets to serve all areas of the DFW metroplex? As you can see from the graphic below, Texas produces a lot of commodities, but the amount of fruits and vegetables produced compared to cattle is tiny! We don’t have enough produce farmers in the area to meet the need and demand for farmers markets.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
Tarrant Area Food Bank operates FMNP because Neighborhood Farmers Markets help bridge the gap between the demand for farmers markets and the lack of accessibility among all communities. If these Neighborhood Farmers Markets are successful and provide a viable revenue source for the farmers, perhaps they will entice others to begin growing produce to sell.
Other organizations like The Blue Zones Project (BZP), Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration, Grow Southeast, and Tarrant County Food Policy Council (TCFPC) are working to bridge this gap as well. BZP supports current markets by making SNAP benefits easier to use. Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration and Grow Southeast are working to support new and emerging farmers in our area to increase the amount of locally grown produce that is available to sell at market. Tarrant County Food Policy Council brings together representatives of our local food system to address policy change on a systematic level.
TCFPC also has a Local Food Map cataloging places in Tarrant County where local produce is grown and sold. Whether by community gardens, market gardens, farm stands or farmers markets, food grown and sold in your neighborhood gives your community the power to address food insecurity and increase social capital by building community, creating jobs, and increasing the availability of nutrient-dense, affordable, culturally-relevant food.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
Shopping at a farmers market is a different experience than going to the grocery store. It can be a little intimidating at first if you’ve never attended before.
Here are a few tips for a successful farmers market trip:
- Find out where your local market is and what days/times they are open
- Shop earlier in the day to get the best selection
- Find out what forms of payment your local market accepts. Many farmers accept cash, card and SNAP EBT!
- Learn about seasonal produce so you can anticipate what your local farmers might be selling, using this tool from TDA
- Not sure how to prepare some of the produce that’s new to you? Use the search feature on TAFB’s Recipe Library to find recipes for your farmers market goods
- Bring your own reusable bags to carry all your goodies!
To find out more about local food options in North Texas, check out Tarrant County Food Policy Council’s “Local Food Map.”
To learn more about TAFB’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program, visit https://tafb.org/farmers-market/.
To volunteer at our FMNP Neighborhood Markets, visit https://tafb.galaxydigital.com/agency/detail/?agency_id=113082.