Sunday, April 25, 2010

Harvest Home Farmer's Markets in NYC

I had the opportunity to meet with Harvest Home's founder, Maritza Owens a few weeks ago to hear about the 22 farmer's markets she has created in New York City inner-city neighborhoods. When debit cards replaced food stamps in 2000, farmer's markets found it impossible to survive in low income neighborhoods in NYC. The farmers couldn't process the debit cards and sell their produce. In 2006 scanners were introduced enabling customers to use their EBT debit cards at farmer's markets. Harvest Home Farmer's Markets enables customers to purchase token for the market with their EBT (electronic benefit transfer), allowing residents to purchase fruits and vegetables from the farmers.

Since the streets where the farmer's markets are located are often closed, Harvest Home Farmer's Markets have also become a way for the community to come together. In one market, which is affiliated with a hospital, a nutritionist and teacher does health screenings. This July and August, Harvest Home's 104th Street market will feature a playstreet allowing neighborhood children to play hopscotch and draw with chalk on the closed streets while their parents shop.

With more banks and drugstores in inner city neighborhoods than supermarkets, Maritza Owen's Harvest Home farmer's markets enable residents access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they otherwise wouldn't be able to find. In addition, she educates market customers how to take advantage of incentive programs like "Health Bucks", introduced in 2007, which gives the customer back 2 additional dollars when they spend 5 dollars at the farmers market beginning in May. Harvest Home markets can redeem Women, Infants, Children's (WIC) New York State Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons (FMNP) New York City Department of Health "Health Bucks", Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition (SFMNP) coupons. It also accepts NYS Green Checks and can process Electronic Benefit Transfer/Food Stamp (EBT) benefits making it an accessible market for many residents who might otherwise not be able to afford to shop at a farmer's market.

To locate a farmer's market in your area, go to