The first week of August is National Farmers Market Week! On Saturday, August 8th at 11 am, Hollywood Farmers Market (HFM) will hold a short ceremony to highlight the achievements that have contributed to a local food movement here in Oregon and across the country.
HFM is one of other 8,000 farmers markets across the country that help to preserve rural livelihood and farmland, support local economies and increase access to fresh nutritious food for all citizens. There were only 35 farmers markets in Oregon when Hollywood Farmers Market rang its first opening bell in 1997; now there are over 120!
Over time, the number of farmers in Oregon has decreased, due to farmland being sold for development and being consolidated into larger parcels. To try to reverse this trend, Oregon State University held their first annual Small Farms Conference at Lane County Community College in 2000. About 125 farmers, farmers market managers and OSU extension staff attended that year to explore how to successfully build a farm direct sector of agriculture. These efforts led to the establishment of the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems. Now in its 15th year, the Small Farms Conference attracts over 900 attendees, mainly young farmers, and celebrates their expanding network of providing local food. The challenge now is to find land for all those new farmers!
HFM takes great pride that over 85% of our vendors return each year. Seven farmers were founding vendors and have participated in the market since 1997, when we were located in the former Washington Mutual Bank parking lot (now the location of Whole Foods). Over the years, market vendors have established a loyal customer base in the neighborhood, and the market is teeming with shoppers every Saturday.
According to the national Farmers Market Coalition, 25% of farmers market vendors receive their sole source of income from their markets. Some farmers also generate additional revenues from their CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), U-Picks and farm stands as well as selling directly to schools and health care institutions. USDA, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and foundations such as New Seasons Market and Providence Health Care are providing an increasing amount of funding to support the growing number of farm direct venues.
In an effort to make nutritious local food available for low-income shoppers, HFM began accepting SNAP (the program formerly known as food stamps) cards in 2004. Since then, more SNAP recipients have begun to shop at the market, and last year’s SNAP sales topped $22,000! (This trend is mirrored nationally, where SNAP sales at farmers markets have increased by 600% in the past decade). To further support this goal, HFM introduced their Fresh Funds SNAP matching program in 2010. This program provides SNAP shoppers an additional $5 a week to purchase fresh products. Thanks to New Seasons Market and the HFM Board efforts, this program generated another $10,000 for our farmers, and helped hundreds of low-income families purchase fresh, local produce. Similar successful “SNAP matching programs” in other states have now led to federal funding of these programs, through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. Through a FINI grant secured by the Portland-based Farmers Market Fund, HFM (along with other Oregon farmers markets) will receive additional funds to double their SNAP match program in 2016 – a $10 weekly match for each SNAP customer!
Come celebrate all of these milestones and more as part of National Farmers Market Week on Saturday, August 8th at 11 am. Raise your morning coffee at Hollywood Farmers Market and help us thank the farmers, staff and volunteers for their contribution to our market’s success!