Crates of sweet cantaloupe, juicy tomatoes, and fresh potatoes — the buzz of a farmers’ market on a sunny afternoon. What could be better?
Shopping at farmers’ markets is a fun way to stock up on nutritious, locally grown food. Through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more Commonwealth residents have access to seasonal fruits, vegetables, and other goods.
SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamps Program) is a federal program administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) that lets participants buy fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and some seeds and plant starters at farmers’ markets.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and DTA have been working together to increase the number of farmers’ markets that accept SNAP, help SNAP clients access markets, and help farmers process SNAP transactions.
SNAP-friendly Farmers’ Markets
- Amherst— For more than 40 years, the Amherst Farmers’ Market has offered a wide range of products, including yogurt, wild mushrooms, and Chinese vegetables. April–November.
- Orleans — The Orleans Farmers’ Market offers vegetables, quail eggs, and other delicious goods. You can also visit the market information table for a $10 weekly bonus for SNAP. May–November.
- Easton — The Original Easton Farmers’ Market features local farmers, bakers, and other vendors who sell fresh, seasonal food. May–October.
- Roslindale — Featuring a live concert series, the Roslindale Village Main Street Farmers’ Market offers fresh, local produce and handmade goods from more than 30 vendors. You can earn up to $10 per week through the market’s double SNAP benefits program. June–November.
- Quincy — The Quincy Farmers’ Market draws a loyal crowd thanks to its children’s activities, live music events, and goods produced mainly by small businesses. June–November.
- Springfield — The Farmers’ Market at Forest Park in Springfield is one of the largest and longest-running markets in the state. May–October.
Using SNAP at Farmers’ Markets
Using your Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card at a farmers’ market is a little different than at the grocery store. MDAR provides information on several ways you can use SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets with EBT cards. Most farmers’ markets use one of the following systems:
- Coupons and Tokens — Find the information or manager’s booth and let the staff know you’d like to use SNAP benefits. They’ll charge your card and give you coupons or tokens that you can use like cash at that farmers’ market. Instead of giving you change, most vendors will round prices down or throw in extra produce. If you have leftover coupons, you can use them at the same market throughout the season.
- Direct Swipe — In some cases, you may be able to swipe your card directly with a vendor who uses a smartphone or other point of sale device.
- Alternative Receipt System — Some farmers’ markets may use the alternative receipt system. In this case, you shop for goods, and the vendors hold them and give you a receipt. You then bring the receipts to the information booth, pay with SNAP, and exchange them for your purchases.
If you have questions about using SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets, look for the market manager’s booth. Note that you can’t use SNAP benefits to purchase certain things like alcohol and non-food items.
Double Value and Matching Programs
Some farmers’ markets participate in double value or matching programs like Boston Bounty Bucks or SNAP and Save, available in Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties. If you spend $10 in SNAP benefits at select farmers’ markets, for instance, you earn a $10 bonus, giving you a total value of $20. Special limits apply — be sure to ask the market’s information booth how the dollar-for-dollar system works before you shop.
With SNAP benefits, farmers’ markets are a great way to save money on healthy food. Learn more about times, locations, and payment options by using the MassGrown map.
Know any must-visit farmers’ markets in Massachusetts? Comment below or tweet us @MassGov.
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