Farmers’ markets hoping for busy winter season

The Recorder, December 27, 2017

Farmers’ markets and farm stands throughout western Massachusetts are anticipating a busier-than-usual winter season after the success of the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) this summer.

HIP offers Massachusetts families an instant rebate on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and through CSA shares ($40 to $80 per month, depending on the size of their household). Shoppers in the state have received over $2.8 million in rebates since the program launched in April. That’s more than six times the amount of SNAP benefits spent on local fruits and vegetables at these outlets last year. SNAP recipients can receive rebates through HIP all year round, and with fewer farmers’ markets and farm stands open in the winter months, those that are open hope to see that momentum continue.

“By bringing thousands of new individuals and families to farmers’ markets across the state, HIP has facilitated countless new relationships between shoppers, farmers, families, and food that have the potential to impact food choices for generations,” said David Paysnick, owner of Rainbow Harvest Farm in Greenfield and manager of the Greenfield Winter Farmers’ Market. The market is open the first Saturday of the month (November through March), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Four Corners Elementary School.

HIP is a program of the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance. Local implementation of HIP is supported by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), The Food Bank of Western Mass, Mass in Motion, and other community organizations.

“HIP has been a great help for us in making both our farm share and farm store more accessible to a greater cross-section of the community,” said Jeremy Barker Plotkin, co-owner of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst. “We hope to see people continue to come in to the store to use their HIP benefits as we keep the supply of organic vegetables going all winter long.” Simple Gifts Farm Stand is open seven days a week all winter long, at 1089 North Pleasant St. in Amherst.

Find more information about HIP in our region by following the “HIP – Healthy Incentives Program, Pioneer Valley” Facebook page.