SANFORD – The Sanford Farmers Market will begin its 2013 season this Saturday, continuing its push toward increased community involvement and support for local farms, while introducing grants to support low-income residents obtaining fresh produce.
Last year, the market showcased more than 20 vendors offering a wide variety of produce, as well as vendors selling baked goods, locally made crafts and jewelry. The markets – Saturdays in Sanford and Wednesdays in Springvale – typically run from early May through the fall harvest in late October. The Sanford market is in Central Park from 8 a.m.-noon, and the Springvale market is located at the Rite Aid from 1-5 p.m.
Jack McAdam, market manager and McDougal Orchards owner, oversees a market that is about to start its fifth year in Sanford’s downtown.
Lynn McCannell, the owner of Stone Field Farm in Springvale, said she believes the
market not only brings the farming community together, but also the entire
“I’m extremely happy with how the market has grown,” she said. “We started out with eight or nine vendors in Gowen Park and now we have over 20.”
She says the market showcases how local farming can benefit a lot of people. “It gives small farmers more opportunites to sell their produce, but it also benefits buyers because most of it is probably picked just a few hours before,” she said.
A major factor in the overall success of the Sanford market has come from its support of economic incentives for low-income families. The market supports the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which carry food stamp funds, but it also offers a price reduction for its users. McAdam said that through grants from local nonprofits, the market offers all items at half-price for residents using EBT or Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children funds.
According to McAdam, the market did almost $12,000 in EBT sales last year and $6,000 of that was grant money.
“If you had an EBT card and you bought $50 worth of produce, we only charged your card $25,” he said.
He says the grant money makes up the other $25, which goes toward paying back the vendors. The grants were acquired through working with Partners for Healthier Communities, a local health initiative sponsored by Goodall Hospital in coordination with Healthy Maine Partnerships, and Maine Farmland Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Maine farmland. McAdam added that Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the state’s EBT program, reimburses for all wireless credit card machine charges.
After also allowing regular debit-credit card purchases, the process has been streamlined by what McAdam refers to as a “shopping list” that is given to each customer at the market. Each vendor fills out what the customer purchases so that each customer only has to pay once at the end of their visit. The process will be further streamlined this year after the market vendors voted to purchase an iPad for McAdam, which will provide spreadsheet applications, as well as a way to slide cards directly into the iPad.
McAdam says that while he is designated market manager, there are annual meetings, as well as votes conducted by the vendors.
“It’s pretty much a democratic process,” he said.
McAdam says most of the successful ideas have come from his annual attendance at Maine’s farmers market convention, which this year was held in Northport.
“I picked up the idea for involving nonprofits from other market managers,” he said. “That is something other markets have been doing.”
According to McAdam, the Sanford market has also benefited from moving last year into Central Park, off Main Street, which was something the Sanford Downtown Legacy had been pushing for. For the first three years, the market was held in Gowen Park. According to McAdam, it was a beautiful spot, but didn’t see the kind of foot traffic that Central Park brought to the market.
“I had one woman come down and say, ‘I’ve been looking for you guys forever,’” he said. “The first couple weeks there (Central Park) were just amazing. People just poured in.”
McAdam says the Sanford market came together in 2009 when the Sanford Downtown Legacy contacted him and the owners of Kelly Orchards. He felt that the organization wanted to solidify the involvement and support of two of the area’s prominent farms moving forward. McAdam said that in the early 1990s, there was a Sanford market that failed after a few years due to a lack of leadership, and everyone involved didn’t want to repeat those mistakes.
Starting in 2009, Thea Murphy, Sanford Downtown Legacy board member and Trafton Senior Center director, volunteered to be the market manager, because, according to McAdam, “No one else wanted to devote the time.”
However, after the first few months, Murphy asked McAdam to take over the job.
Murphy has continued her support and involvement. Last year, she organized the weekly nonprofit tent, which sees local nonprofit organizations come in each week and offer activities, another idea stemming from McAdam’s talks with other managers.
This year, however, Murphy will be spending more time trying to expand the Maine Senior FarmShare Program, which provides local produce to income-eligible seniors. According to Murphy, Maine is the only state that does not allow the FarmShare program to include farmers markets.
“We at the Trafton Center have drafted a letter to send to our representatives requesting a change in that,” she said.
During the past few years, McAdam has secured grant funds in order to offer a similar program for seniors, but Murphy would like farmers markets to be officially included in the state’s program.
McAdam believes that the variety offered by the vendors makes Sanford’s community atmosphere come alive. He says he has had offers from outside companies asking to join, but says it must be a locally grown or made product.
“I’d like to see us fill the entire Central Park someday,” he said. “It’s not just a market; it creates a real community atmosphere.”