Thursday, December 1, 2011

US Ag Policy

If you are interested in US Ag Policy, where we are now and how we got here, there is a great resource on the internet.

AGree is a collaboration of several different foundations that are examining US and International Food Policy and Food Security issues to help lead innovative discussions and programming.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Farm-To-School success!

Here's Katie Wolpert, one of the members of the Tygart Valley Growers Association, telling us about her exciting sale to Upshur County Schools. 

"The week of October 10-14th was National School Lunch week and in honor of that week, the Upshur County Schools made a special effort to include local products in their school lunches for the week. They ordered ground cherries and mustard greens from our fall garden to include as fresh salad components at one of their schools this week. The Nutrition Director for the Upshur County Schools, Cynthia Nesselrode, grew up on a farm in the southern part of WV and is very interested to include more locally produced and seasonal items in the school lunch menus whenever possible.

It is likely that she was even more excited to accept the order from Wolpertinger than we were to deliver it. Hopefully this small initial order is the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the Upshur County School System and results in a closer connection between the farmers and the students in this area.

Any farmers interested or able to provide products that may be of interest to the schools should not hesitate to contact myself or Ben Nemeth about pursuing opportunities with the Upshur schools. This is a great opportunity to develop new markets at a time of year when sales at the summer farmers markets are slowing or already completed for the year. Winter storage items and early spring products will also be able to be sold in this all-but-untapped marketplace. Hopefully we will develop the relationship this winter and spring such that as markets begin to slow next August and schools go back into session, we'll be able to transition smoothly from selling at summer markets to selling to school cafeterias.

If the program continues to grow, there is a possibility of conducting farm visits with school classes or bringing local farmers into the schools to discuss growing, and other issues of relevance with the students, and thereby strengthening the connection that we hope is just beginning to form."

Here are some pictures of the Wolpert's Fall Garden

Congratulations to Wolpertinger and Upshur County Schools! It's exciting to see opportunities like this popping up all over the state. Let's keep the momentum going!

Friday, September 30, 2011

High Tunnel Delivery!

The TVGA received their shipment of 7 High Tunnels from Rimol Greenhouses.

The group unloaded over 45,000 lbs of High Tunnel material from the truck. That's 22 and half tons!

The process went quickly and smoothly with everyone who came out to help. Exciting things will be popping up in Barbour county!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Channel 12 Story

Mark Hollen, a  Tygart Valley Growers Association member was featured in a news story on WBOY Channel 12 (Here). Filmed at Mark's farm, Mark did a great job demonstrating the level of care he takes in growing and handling his produce. His beautiful farm in Valley Furnace provided a very scenic background to the news story. The interview lasted around 1 hour as Stacy Jacobson filmed Mark working on his farm, interviewed Mark and Ben Nemeth and filmed her narrative piece. It was a nice experience, and WesMonTy appreciates the great focus on local food that Stacy Jacobson has provided. This is great exposure for the TVGA and the work that is being done to increase sales of local foods into local markets!

This was part of a larger story by Stacy Jacobson that is focusing on local foods being sold into local restaurants and grocery stores. Her story focuses on the recent sales to Stonewall Resort. A very special thank you goes out to Stacy Jacobson for covering this story.


Monday, August 15, 2011


This movie looks interesting. Has anyone seen it?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cooperative Development Meeting w/ Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder from the Ohio Cooperative Development Center presented information and answered questions for the TVGA last Tuesday.

Dr. Snyder presented a binder and handout with some really valuable information on starting a cooperative. He explained that cooperatives have a lot of benefits for growers who are trying to market together, such as exemptions from anti-trust laws, liability insurances and access to larger markets.

We look forward to working more with Dr. Snyder and the OCDC in the future!

Monday, August 1, 2011

State Requirements for selling Jams, Jellies and Honey

Today we assisted a nice gentleman to register his operation so that he could sell jams, jellies and honey at the farmers market. After some searching online, we found the document needed to register with the Department of Health and Human Services.

It can be downloaded here:
Registration Form for Sale of Home Canned and Prepared Foods

One simply needs to print the form, submit it to their local DHHR office to register, and follow all labeling requirements.

Another helpful document is the Farmers Market Vendor's Guide. It has basic information on registering your products and who to speak with about each product. That can be downloaded here:
Farmers Market Vendors Guide

For the canned good labeling a vendor is required to label any major food allergens present in the product. The list of major food allergens from the FDA website is as follows:
"FALCPA identifies eight foods or food groups as the major food allergens. They are milk, eggs, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod), Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat, and soybeans."

The webpage can be found here:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Special Delivery

Want some gourmet food made with fresh local produce? Check out the Stonewall!

Last Thursday, the TVGA made their first delivery to Chef Paco at the Stonewall Jackson resort. The delivery was a vast array of delicious produce; carrots, tomatoes, greens, and fragrant fresh herbs. Chef Paco will be incorporating the produce into Stonewall’s menu, to give lucky patrons a taste of what West Virginia has to offer. Relationships like this with restaurants and local businesses are important to support our local farming economies and to help create a healthy food system for everyone. To check out the menus at the Stonewall, visit their website:

Final Food Safety Meeting with TVGA

Last Wednesday, Laura Hartz of Downstream Strategies in Morgantown presented a two page flyer that allows growers to stay current with emerging food safety legislation, and its impact on their business. The flyer describes three different pieces of legislation that have the ability to impact small-farmers and food manufacturers in the state. It also lists the contact information of representative people in the government that can be notified about the legislation's impact. The three pieces are the Leafy Green Marketing Amendment, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the West Virginia Food Manufacturing Facility Rule. It is important that farmers stay on top of emerging food safety legislation that can impact the local food economy and this flyer will help them to do it. The flyer is available for pick up at the Community Garden Market on mainstreet. We encourage every home gardener and small farmer to grab a copy of the flyer and read about these important issues.

The flyer is available for download under the resources page.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WVU Organic Farm Field Day

Thanks to David Ahrend for sending out this letter from Dr. Jim Kotcon!

West Virginia University’s Division of Plant and Soil Sciences is hosting its 12th annual
Organic Field Day on Thursday, August 4, at the WVU Organic Research Farm located on Rt. 705 in Morgantown, WV. The Field Day is open to the public and anyone interested in organic farming is encouraged to attend. The Field Day will include a wagon tour of research and demonstration plots emphasizing transitional practices for growers considering converting from conventional to organic practices.

New this year will be a symposium on organic management for Brown Marmorated Stink
Bug, and a project on sheep health and nutrition. We also have work on organic egg production, additional trials for sustainable biofuel crop production, and crop variety trials on blackberry, tomato, pepper, bean, lettuce, squash and watermelon. Intensive workshops will be conducted on insect, disease and weed identification and management, livestock, poultry, and pasture management, marketing, and much more!

Please register in advance for the workshops so the presenters can prepare adequate
handouts, etc. A dinner featuring organic produce grown on the Farm is planned for 6:00 PM that evening. If you’re interested in learning more about organic farming, some of the practices used, or are just curious as to what it’s all about, feel free to stop out and enjoy the evening with us! Gates will open Thursday, August 4th at 1:00 PM and will close at 7:00 PM. You are encouraged to pre-register via e-mail ( ) by returning the attached registration form, or by calling Tessy Warnick at 304-293-2961.
For more information, call Dr. Jim Kotcon at 304-293-8822. We hope to see you there!

Directions to the WVU Organic Research Farm:
From I-68, take Exit 7 and go west on Rt. 857, 1 mile to Rt. 119 (second stop light).
Turn Left onto Rt.119 (south) for 1.5 mile.
At the second stop light, turn right onto Rt. 705.
Look for the driveway on the left (¼ mile) for the WVU Plant and Soil Sciences Farm.

You can also visit their website at:

Friday, July 15, 2011

High tunnel meeting success!

The Tygart Valley Growers Association hosted Rich Connor from Rimol Greenhouse Systems, Inc. for an informational meeting about high tunnels. The attending growers have recently accepted NRCS EQIP contracts that will allow them to fully transition to organic, year-round production using high tunnel technology. In Barbour County alone, over $150,000 in EQIP contracts have been awarded.

Mr. Connor is an industry expert, and his extensive knowledge on greenhouses was appreciated by the attendees. He answered questions from growers and showcased different materials, then reviewed orders with growers and stayed to socialize and speak about farm operations. He fielded questions about ventilation, the advantages of roll-up sides and how long different materials are expected to last.

The presence of Mr. Connor demonstrated the importance of small-scale agriculture in West Virginia, and the active supporting role USDA NRCS is playing. One couple drove over two hours just to attend the meeting to have their questions answered. There is a high demand for the support of small-scale growers in West Virginia, and the Tygart Valley Growers Association in partnership with WesMonTy RC&D and NRCS will continue to provide this support for our growers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Selling Eggs at the Farmers Market

We recently had a gentleman come to the office looking for information on how to sell eggs at the local farmers market. After being told he had to register with DHHR and DHHR telling him he had to register with Extension, he was tired and confused when he arrived here.

Fortunately, we had the solution for him!

In order to sell eggs at the farmers market, one simply has to register with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Assuming that the producer is selling fewer than 150 dozen eggs per week, the registration is free and must be updated yearly:

"§61-7A-3.1 (WV Marketing of Eggs Rule) A small producer is any person marketing one hundred fifty (150) dozen of eggs or less per week of his or her own production. A small producer shall register with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture on forms provided by the Commissioner but is exempt from paying permit or inspection fees.
A small producer will label their cartons according to legislative rule (regulations)."

You can download it direct from this blog by clicking this link:
Application for Small Egg Producer Registration


By following this link, you can download the Small Egg producers Registration Form on the right bar under Egg.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The WesMonTy RC&D webpage is up and running!
Please check it out at

Also, if you are willing, please search for WesMonTy RC&D on google and click the link for the webpage ( to bring it up to the top of the list.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Farm to School Success Story

Thanks to the Farm to School pre-conference workshop at the 2011 Small Farm Conference hosted by WesMonTy RC&D, the Center for Economic Options, and the WVU Small Farm Center, a large farm to school purchase order for fresh produce was filled in Fayette County this week.

A relationship was established at the conference between attendees Savanna Lyons, the Market Manager in Fayette County, and David Seay of Fayette County Schools. After Mr Seay spoke to the Fayette County Farmers Market, he formed a committee focused on getting local products into the Fayette County Schools. This week this contact resulted in a purchase order of $1,000 for a Fayette County Farmer. The farmer is going to deliver fresh strawberries and salad bar items to the school. They are also planning field trips for some classes to come out and pick strawberries!

According to Mr. Seay, "It was one of the best things I have done as the Food Service Director in Fayette County. I think that a relationship between the farmers and the schools will pay dividends for both groups"

The momentum of Farm to School Programs in West Virginia is growing. Let's keep this up and bring more fresh, local products into the schools!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NRCS Success Story

Here is a success story recently posted on the NRCS webpage. The text is posted below, or you can follow the link:

West Virginia Success Story

Sprucing up a Former Surface Mine

Program or Category: WesMonTy Resource Conservation and Development. (RC&D), Appalachian Plant Materials Center (PMC).

Overview: The project area is 90 acres of Mower Tract previously surface mined land on Cheat Mountain located in Randolph County on the USFS Monongahela National Forest. The reclamation techniques left the area in a less than desirable condition. To ensure stability, soils were heavily compacted, and all disturbances were sowed with aggressive, nonnative grass species. After several decades, the area is still covered by only a dense grass mat which has inhibited the establishment of native species. This condition is referred to as ‘arrested succession’ and can be reversed with human intervention.

This high elevation site was historically a red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem prior to mining activities. The red spruce ecosystem of the Central Appalachians is characterized by exceptionally high biodiversity and is a priority for conservation and restoration.

Accomplishments: The Wes-Mon-Ty Resource Conservation & Development Project, Inc. received a $5,000 Stage I grant and $12,000 Stage II grant through the 2010 FOCUS WV Brownfields program to address barriers to revitalization of Barton Bench Ecological Project Area and plan for marketing implementation. Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties that have not been redeveloped due to real or perceived environmental barriers.

The project objective is to establish and restore native species of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants to this area with a short-term goal (5-20 years) of enhancing habitat for early successional species and a long-term goal of spruce ecosystem restoration. The Forest Service is working with partners to collect seeds or roots from trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants native to the high elevations of West Virginia. The Appalachian Plant Materials Center has propagated several species including common elderberry, yellow birch, black locust, alternate-leaved dogwood, scarlet beebalm, and bigtooth aspen.

Project partners include: Wes-Mon-Ty Resource Conservation and Development Council, Appalachian Plant Materials Center, Monongahela National Forest, Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI), Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, Office of Surface Mining's Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Program Benefits to Community: Mower Tract wildlife habitat enhancement and ecological restoration has many short term and long-term benefits. Primarily, native flora restoration on the Mower Tract will greatly aid and conserve species including the Cheat Mountain salamander, northern flying squirrel, snowshoe hare, golden eagles, woodcock, ruffed grouse, saw whet owl and a number of pollinating animals by providing a variety of food sources and niches. Short term benefits are already being realized as wildlife feeding and pollination has already been observed this summer season. In the next 40 years, a vast habitat improvement is expected regarding natural biodiversity by establishing a vegetative community which will proliferate itself naturally.

By returning the mine site to native forest, the state's much diminished red spruce forest—the target of an ongoing restoration effort—will grow, and more high-value hardwood timber will be produced. The land's ability to absorb and control water runoff will also be enhanced.

The Barton Bench Ecological Restoration Project has the potential to convert a longstanding brownfield into a high profile demonstration site that can be used to showcase the natural resources of West Virginia.

Jason Teets, Wes-Mon-Ty Resource Conservation & Development Coordinator

Philippi Center
Rt. 4, Box 502
Philippi, WV 26416

Photo of Bigtooth aspen Bigtooth aspen are native to the Monongahela National Forest and grow quickly to shade out invasive grasses and provide a food source and habitat.
Photo of bigtooth aspen Photo of bigtooth aspen Several aspen were staked in preparation of high winds and flagged to deter wildlife from grazing on the young tress before their roots became established. Ten aspen were fitted with garden fabric sheets to control the growth of invasive sod.

< Back to 2010 Success Stories

Friday, March 25, 2011

SNAP/EBT at the Farmers Market?

This is a guide to offering SNAP benefit access at your farmers market. It was created by Ann Fugate. Many thanks to her.

Example signage at a farmers market

Vendors at farmers markets are eligible to be approved to take SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits – formerly called food stamps. However, these benefits are done by Electronic Benefits transfer, like credit cards. Unless the vendor has power and phone hookups, or has wireless equipment, being individually approved may not be feasible. Moreover, being the only or one of few vendors at a market who take SNAP limits the number of potential customers who may use the service.

Nationwide, more markets are establishing market-wide SNAP programs in which a number of vendors participate and which the market itself promotes. These programs offer many benefits: recipients get the benefit of fresh, wholesome food; costs are shared among the vendors; and vendors get to increase their sales through new customers. What does it take?

APPROVAL BY MARKET VENDORS: Market vendors must want the program for it to work. If you market now takes WIC or Senior Farmers Market coupons, vendors are used to serving ‘benefit’ customers and may be more willing to consider SNAP. A simple explanation of what the vendor must do and the benefits – i.e. additional sales – may be enough.

HOW A MARKET-WIDE SYSTEM WORKS: The market itself is the approved SNAP vendor. It is responsible for food stamp ‘sales’: What is ‘sold’ is some kind of scrip (coupons to tokens) that the customer uses to buy food from individual vendors. Each coupon or token ‘sale’ is transmitted to the state office, which electronically sends payment to your bank account (usually within one or two days). Later the vendor redeems the coupons or tokens with the market for money.

Market support for the proGRAM: It’s not enough to apply and get approved; you must run the program once it is established. This requires:

· Method to connect to EBT program (phone and power or wireless equipment)

· Market bank account

· A SNAP table or booth

· Staff for the table or booth

· Tokens or coupons

· Advertising and market signs

· Recruitment and training of market vendors

· Monitoring/oversight

· System for redeeming coupons/tokens and paying vendors, preparing reports, etc.

· Funds to support these efforts

IS IT WORTH IT? Only your market’s experience can tell you. In 2009 Ohio farmers markets in their first year of EBT averaged only $500-$1000 in total sales. But Athens Farmers Market has more than triples our sales since our first year and the amount is still growing. More importantly, EBT benefits allow low-income families to benefit from the lower prices and fresher quality of local products: that’s the real benefit.

1. CONNECTING TO THE EBT PROGRAM: SNAP benefits are transferred electronically like credit cards. Indeed you can use credit card equipment for SNAP – your local grocery store probably does this now. However, farmers markets are different – most are outside, few have power and phone outlets. How can you connect?

Manual Transactions: The least expensive method is to get approval from the state to do only manual transactions. You will need at least a cell phone for this. For each customer, you fill out a paper form and call the state for an approval number before issuing the coupons or tokens. Later you transmit the ‘sales’ using an EBT machine from home or office. Cheap, but slow.

EBT using state provided equipment: The state will provide you with a machine for transmitting SNAP purchases. It is small (about 6x12 inches) and pretty effective. It transmits, prints receipts and totals daily sales. You must have an electrical outlet and a phone hookup to use the system. We had electricity nearby buy had to have the phone company install a line. This is easily done if you are near phone lines and costs $100-$200. What you get is a box where you plug in the phone cord you buy Radio Shack or WW to your EBT machine. The phone line will cost you $30/month (be sure to have it programmed to not accept long distance calls because that box will be available to whomever walks by!). You will need a cell phone handy for emergencies.

You don’t have to have your SNAP setup right at the market. If there is a convenient office or shop nearby, you may be able to use that – you will need good signage to direct customers. It must be available during market hours. Cheap if you can make the connections; fast and effective.

EBT using your own equipment: You can rent or purchase equipment from a commercial company and use a ‘merchant account’ to process sales. The advantages of this approach are that you can get wireless equipment if you want and you can set up and account to also take credit cards (can’t use state equipment for this). Several markets take credit cards and, if your clientele loves plastic, it can bring in extra sales. The downside is cost: equipment ranges from $300-$1000, depending on your system and there are monthly transmission and account fees. The cheapest I found (on the internet) for these were $245 for equipment plus 2.2% plus 25 cents for each transaction (minimum $15/month) plus $8 monthly statement fee plus phone charges. Our market hasn’t done this, so I recommend you contact a local business person or another market to get good advice.

2. MARKET BANK ACCOUNT: You need a bank account for your SNAP ‘income’. You can use your regular market account, or set up a separate one just for food stamps. You will need an employer identification number or a social security number for this account.

3. SNAP TABLE OR BOOTH: - and a place to store this stuff. You will need a table and chairs, and a canopy or tent is helpful to protect equipment and supplies from the weather. A good-sized box is necessary to store the EBT machine, phone/power cords, paper supplies (transaction forms, nutrition information, instructions to customers and staff, etc.) AND you need to transport, setup and take down all this stuff every market. If you use a site away from the market for sales, it is helpful to have a SNAP information table at the market. You market manager’s table or booth may be a good choice.

Running the SNAP table

4. STAFFING: There are basically four methods: Your own market staff (manager), paid outside help, market members/vendors or volunteers.

Manager: This will work if your manager is willing and has the time. Our single manager is far too busy getting vendors set up and monitoring activity to man the booth. Someone has to man the SNAP table well before the market opens.

Paid outside help: Several folks each willing to work one or two markets a month are usually pretty easy to find. We recruited folks from our local food ventures programs, vendor families, interested college students and market customers. You must have a sound training program to get each person ready to deal with customers and problems: you want folks who like people and are willing to talk with them. You also need to have written instructions for everything for staff and customers – things will go wrong, so have an emergency plan. In addition, you will need money to pay them and a system for employing these folks, including handling withholding taxes, etc. In lieu of money, you might consider recruiting regular customers and paying them in gift certificates to the market!

An alternative is to use a vendor as your staff: after initially using paid outside help, we had a vendor volunteer to do this. He takes responsibility for the equipment, sets up the machinery at his booth and processes all the transactions along with his regular business. He’s been doing it long enough now that he knows many of the customers, can answer questions really well, solves all the little glitches that come up and enjoys himself! He didn’t initially take SNAP, but now does, so someone checks his numbers very carefully. Some hints: don’t use an extremely busy vendor and pick someone who likes to talk to customers. You should also rotate the duty among your vendors.

Volunteers: If you have a group willing to take on the SNAP table, you are in luck! “Friends of the market”, church groups, senior citizens, sororities/fraternities, etc. are all likely groups. But you need to train, monitor and support (lots of thank yous) to keep them participating.

The market manager or whoever is running the program needs to keep a schedule of staffing for the booth and to verify that folks will be on duty as needed. Remember, these folks are handling coupons or tokens that have money value, so be judicious.

5. TOKENS OR COUPONS: You need to give the SNAP customer something he/she can use as money at the market in exchange for the charge to his account. Generally these are either paper coupons (scrip) or some type of plastic, metal or wooden tokens. Coupons are cheap but take time; tokens have a high initial cost but are simple to use.

Paper coupons are generally just used once. The market prints the coupons, marking them in some way to prevent counterfeiting. Customers use them that day for purchases and vendors return them the same day for payment. Colored or printed paper, special symbols, dating and numbering all help to prevent fakes; remember, if the coupon is not distinctive and not returned promptly, either a customer or vendor could take it home and fake copies.

Example voucher

Example voucher

Tokens are made of metal, plastic or wood; there are several companies on line where you can order them with your own design. Tokens direct in Cincinnati offers 5000 metal tokens with your market information for about $1000 – half the price is for the die setup so additional orders are not as expensive. High initial cost but they’re hard to fake and last a long time (some do disappear down the couch cushions and under the floor mats of customers and vendors!).

You cannot give change for SNAP purchases, so a $1 token is good. If you are also taking credit cards, you should get a different size, color and denomination for these. Since you can give change for credit card purchases, a $5 denomination is good.

6. SIGNS AND ADVERTISING: You need to tell customers where to get the tokens or coupons. We have a 6 foot banner that hangs at the table that simply says “TOKENS HERE” in case we expand to take credit cards and to minimize any ‘poor folks’ image. We distributed flyers to congregate meal sites, clinics, used clothing programs and churches. We got articles in our two local newspapers. In addition, we included “We take food stamps” on all ads. But more importantly, we have the help of our County Dept. of Jobs and Family Services, which includes market information on their regular radio spots and in communications with their clients. Their help has, I think, been more useful than anything we have done ourselves.

Example of advertising

7. VENDOR RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING: If your market is like ours, it’s hard to get the attention of vendors when they are getting ready to sell. Your recruitment and training programs need to be short and sweet. A verbal explanation accompanied by a brief flyer can be enough for most vendors. Be prepared to address ‘poor folk’ and bureaucracy issues. It isn’t necessary that all vendors participate. We found that some vendors only signed up when they saw their neighbors getting those gold tokens. Explain:

· This is additional income from customers who can’t shop at the market now.

· The vendor’s agreement is with the market, not state or federal offices. vendors do not have to report anything to outside agencies.

· Vendors need only read, understand and sign a simple agreement with the market that they comply with the rules. (Have the agreement there).

· Almost all foods are eligible; only eat-at-market items can’t be sold. This means jams, meats, baked goods and other items excluded from WIC or Senior Coupons are eligible – and lots of WIC and Senior Coupon folks also get SNAP.

· What the schedule and process for redeeming coupons or tokens will be.

· The ‘We accept food stamp benefits’ sign should be displayed to attract customers.

8. VENDOR/MARKET AGREEMENT: A one-page agreement spelling out that the vendor will abide by the program rules (give them a copy), understands that the market will be monitoring usage, and the redemption schedule is sufficient. Keep the signed agreements for your records.

9. MONITORING/OVERSIGHT: The market manager or an officer should monitor SNAP activity at the market, making sure that customers are treated fairly and that vendors understand and abide by the rules. Watch for unusual redemptions – too many tokens from small vendors, etc. – to spot possible violations. State and federal officials may visit your market and, if an infraction is found, the entire market may be banned from participation.

10. SYSTEM FOR REDEEMING COUPONS AND PAYING VENDORS AND REPORTING: The EBT system charges the customer’s account and transfers the funds to your bank electronically. Reimbursement is prompt – one or two days, so you can have a quick redemption system if you wish. Initially we visited vendors monthly to collect tokens, issue a receipt, which was given to our treasurer who wrote checks to each vendor. We found this cumbersome: not all vendors are present or are ready, the manager gets called away, etc. We now have vendors bring the tokens or coupons to the SNAP booth, where they get a receipt for their tokens. The treasurer then issues each vendor a check. You may want to reimburse in cash, or write checks at the market, or whatever works for you. However, do not have the same person who accepts the tokens from the vendor issue the cash payment or check – you need to use good money management principles! One market (New Orleans) collects tokens on the day monthly stall fees are due and encourages vendors to use the tokens to pay all or part of those fees.

The market must complete monthly and annual reports of SNAP activity for the state. These are usually pretty simple and all of the ‘sales’ information can be gotten from the EBT machine. If you use a manual system, your receipts will contain the necessary information. Coupon or token redemption figures must come from your market records.

11. FUNDING: Unfortunately there is limited funding to pay for this and you can’t charge food stamp recipients. You will have to find funding either from the market vendors, community agencies and/or grants. Some possible sources are community foundations, churches, and ‘friends of the market’ groups. Your city or county government may be willing to help. We got start-up costs from a community economic development organization, and our Department of Jobs and Family Services supports ongoing costs with a SNAP Outreach contract. How much?

Start Up

Tokens - $900

Table, chairs, banner, etc. - $400

Special Advertising - $100

Phone hook-up and trouble shooting - $150


Phone - $30/month

Staffing - $40/market day – includes benefits and accounting costs. In addition there is manager work (training, maintaining schedules, preparing reports) and treasurer requirements (maintaining employment records, reimbursing for tokens, monitoring financial reports) that take time.

If you can use paper coupons, get volunteer help, or a free phone line, your costs will be less.

If you decide to also take credit cards, the typical way markets pay for this service (remember, there are fixed and per-transaction costs for this service but not for SNAP) is to charge the credit card customer directly. That is, something like $5 in tokens costs the customer $6. You will need to calculate the cost for your situation.

This document was created by Ann Fugate. It can be found on the WesMonTy RC&D blog at:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2010 Buy Fresh Buy Local West Virginia Chapter Highlights

These are the Chapter Highlights from Buy Fresh Buy Local West Virginia. Their great work from 2010 also highlights the strong partnership between WesMonTy RC&D and Buy Fresh Buy Local West Virginia. Enjoy!

2010 Chapter Highlights:

· Jan-March. BFBL Committee met at the WV Small Farm Conference. BFBLWV set up a display & hosted a table for 2 ½ days while there, signing up farmers market BFBLWV partners & other members during the BFBLWV-organized Winter Blues Farmers Market. BFBLWV recruited new steering committee members. Created BFBLWV Facebook page; as of early 2011, we have 500 fans! BFBLWV fan donated the purchase of books, The Locavore Way to sell as a fundraiser for BFBLWV chapter.

· Spring: Thanks to WV State University Extension sponsor donation, BFBLWV was able to continue work on the website. With grant funds, one of the non-profit arms of the NRCS, WesMonTy RC&D conducted a BFBLWV membership drive aimed at farmers markets in their region. At least 5 new markets joined as a result; their membership was underwritten by WesMonTy RC&D.

· Summer & Fall: BFBLWV continued to partner with WesMonTy District RC&D, who wrote a grant to place a poster in their district schools to read out to children, promoting fresh produce available at local farmers markets. The poster features the BFBLWV chapter logo and contains a space for each school to write in the location of the closest farmers market. Posters were hand distributed in Spring 2011 to each food partner, to coincide with the opening of farmer’s markets and to maximize impact. Parent group WVFMA formalized BFBLWV project as one of 7 standing organization committees.

· Sept: Sent Savanna Lyons, new WVFMA BoD member, to the BFBL National Gathering. Sept 27th: Second annual Celebration of Local Food in Berkeley Springs, WV, was a big success with over 100 people coming out to enjoy great local food and music despite the torrential downpour of rain.

· As of March 2011, 14 current Supporters, 30 current Partners latter broken down as follows: 5 restaurants; 19 Farmers Markets; 4 On-Farm Market; 12 farmers; Sponsors (Wes-Mon-Ty RC&D, WV Department of Agriculture, WVU Extension Service, West Virginia State University Extension Service; Flying Ewe Farm. WVFMA parent group prepared detailed materials to request technical assistance from WesMonTy RC&D for the Buy Fresh Buy Local WV project which was approved by their BoD.

Friday, March 18, 2011

State-wide Farmers Market EBT Demonstration.

Many farmers in West Virginia lack the financial resources to implement conservation practices. By increasing the access to farmers markets for SNAP participants state wide, we can increase the amount of business available to West Virginia farmers. In West Virginia consumers receive $314 million in SNAP benefits to purchase food. Currently, a very minimal portion of this is spent on local products. Increasing the amount of SNAP benefits that farmers can access has the potential to greatly increase their income, and the easiest way for farmers to access these markets is through the local farmers market.

The first state-wide demonstration of EBT (SNAP Benefits) at a farmers market in West Virginia took place on February 17th, 2011. This was the first time the annual West Virginia Farmers Market Association’s Winter Blues Farmers Market featured this service. It was put together in partnership with WesMonTy RC&D, West Virginia Farmers Market Association, and the South Morgantown Farmers Market. Lesa Gay, the market manager of the South Morgantown Farmers Market donated the use of the EBT machine for this event.

This event was designed with simplicity in mind to create a positive experience for farmers who are new to the experience of EBT. We used the voucher system for the market. We had a table set up in a corner where the EBT machine was. Customers could come over to the table and swipe their EBT or credit card for any amount and receive vouchers in return. The vouchers came in $1 and $10 denominations. These vouchers were used in lieu of cash at every vendor. In order to distinguish between EBT and Credit vouchers, we simply punched a hole in the EBT vouchers over a SNAP marking. This was important because the EBT vouchers were unable to be redeemed for cash, whereas the credit vouchers can be.

Each vendor was briefed on the vouchers and received a receipt slip inside a ziplock bag. At the end of the night, the vendors added up their vouchers and placed them in the bag for redemption. The vendors then turned them in to the staff at the voucher table and had a check printed up there for them. Many of the vendors commented on the ease of using the vouchers.

The project was very successful. The table did a total of $1,142 in redemption, with $131 of that as SNAP benefits! That means nearly 10% of electronic transactions were SNAP benefits!

This is important for several reasons. First, it allowed consumers to purchase more than they may have originally intended by providing them with a way to use their credit, debit or EBT cards. Secondly, that is $1,142 that may not have been spent otherwise. By providing another opportunity for consumers to purchase items, the total purchase amounts were increased. Because the farmers received their money at the end of the night, it reduces the turn-around time and gave them a positive impression of EBT at the farmers market.

The income generated at the market is more money that these producers can use toward implementing NRCS conservation programs such as EQIP high tunnel, AMA and the Organic Initiative. This is an example of implementation of USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen A. Merrigan’s January 21, 2011 bulletin encouraging Harnessing USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Programs to Support Local and Regional Food Systems (

Friday, March 4, 2011

Trying Something New Version 3

The third and final video of the Trying Something New trilogy of farmers market promotional videos. Filmed by Joel Wolpert for the WesMonTy RC&D with funds from the USDA AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant. Music performed by Don Olson of Blue Rock Farms (organic blueberries and maple syrup). Narrators: Gracie & Lexie Morici, Jasper Clark & Eli Bolyard.

Trying Something New, v3 from WesMonTy RC&D on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Farmers Market Video!

This is the second in a trilogy of videos to promote kids' participation at Farmers Markets in North Central West Virginia. Filmed by Joel Wolpert for the WesMonTy RC&D with funds from the USDA AMA Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant. Narrators: Mason & Jasper Clark and Eli Bolyard.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Local Food Hubs Provide Opportunity to Local Producers and Consumers

WesMonTy RC&D is working to ensure equitable access of locally grown foods to all residents in WV, and through this work, WesMonTy RC&D has helped sow the seeds for local food hubs in WV. Two farmers markets in North Central West Virginia have taken on the responsibility of being local food hubs by addressing three major issues in the local food system: distribution, supply and access.

These two food hubs are showing the potential for accepting SNAP benefits at their markets, thus reaching the issue of food access. The Community Garden Market in Philippi accepts SNAP benefits through a single-point-of-sale system, and the South Morgantown Farmers Market offers a token system. Both of these markets are leading the way in North Central West Virginia by demonstrating the potential for SNAP access, thereby increasing equitable access for all consumers.

The Community Garden Market in Philippi offers a unique single-point-of-sale system that easily allows all vendors to accept EBT with no training on their part. This was the first farmers market in the state to offer EBT. This market has a single cash register, and all produce is identified by a number that corresponds with the producer so the producer does not need to be present. Upon checkout, the cashier rings up the items with their respective numbers to ensure that each vendor is credited for the purchase of their produce. The customer then has the option of paying with cash, SNAP, Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers or WIC FMNP coupons. The producer does not need to be in attendance at the market because the market is operated similar to a consignment shop. The market manager staffs the cash register and producers pay a 20% fee to help cover the operations of the market and the market takes care of the rest with most producers receiving semi-monthly checks from the market.

With the added benefit of produce aggregation and the potential to generate a single purchase order, growers for the community garden market have distributed produce to the Healthy Families Cooking Demonstration ( canning demonstrations), canning demonstrations ( as well as supplying produce for a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program in local schools ( This is a simple, locally driven solution to the distribution issue.

The South Morgantown Farmers Market is a traditional farmers market by which the producers direct market their goods. At this market a token system is utilized for SNAP purchases. This is a very easy process where the customer simply swipes their card at the EBT/Credit Card table and tells the cashier how much they would like. The cashier then gives the redeemed amount in wooden tokens. Each token is worth $1. To make the distinction between EBT and Credit Card transactions they use two different color tokens. The customer can then take these tokens to any vendor they choose to redeem for food products. The vendor accepts the tokens and redeems them at the end of the day with the market manager. This system works incredibly well at this market and opens the wide variety of available produce to the SNAP participant. It is important to mention that this system works great at markets in which vendors direct market their products. At these markets, single-points-of-sale are not necessarily an option so tokens in lieu of several EBT machines is effective.

The South Morgantown Market distributes produce to a local chef for his cooking schools. Chris Hall runs My Kitchen ( ) a small cooking school in Morgantown WV and appreciates the availability of locally grown produce he can integrate into his cooking classes.

Offering SNAP has several important benefits. Firstly, it encourages low-income residents to shop at the farmers market. When people go to a farmers market for the first time, they are generally surprised by the affordability, and it encourages them to return, thereby creating long-term customers. By exposing SNAP participants to farmers markets it also helps to break down the idea that local produce is expensive. Secondly SNAP benefits increase the earning potential for the producer at the market. Many SNAP benefits are spent on non-local convenience food, and that money is the lost to the local economy. By spending SNAP benefits locally, at the market, it is actually a boost to the local economy through the injection of outside money. Furthermore, that money will continue to circulate within the local economy several times generating even more benefit. Simply by offering this free service to customers and vendors, these two markets have both increased the income-earning potential of their producers and laid the foundation for healthier, local food to be on local tables, no matter a family’s socio-economic status.

WesMonTy RC&D has assisted the food hubs with the supply issue by offering assistance on affordable season extension techniques; specifically low tunnels to the historically underserved community of farmers of North Central West Virginia. The purpose of supplying season extension materials to local producers is to lower their entry risk into enhanced farming techniques, and also to supply the local food hubs with produce earlier in the season as well as later. WesMonTy RC&D has distributed low tunnel materials to several local producers, and both earlier and later season produce holds the potential for greater income.

The season extension materials have already seen many added benefits, as more produce was available at the markets this past season. Furthermore, a local producer who lives in a frost pocket has seen incredible results in protecting his plants from early frost. Lewis Jett, a horticulturalist at West Virginia University has continually provided our producers with an extraordinary amount of technical assistance.

WesMonTy has also organized growers meetings with the formation of the Tygart Valley Growers Association. This independent organization is a venue for growers to discuss production, marketing ideas, socialize and learn about farm bill conservation programs ( The association frequently features guest speakers including representatives from the USDA Rural Development, and the Farm Service Agency. This has considerable benefits for the group through the exploration of loan and grant programs. It has also benefitted the agencies by giving them easy contact with a large number of producers that they can service.

Recently the group organized a seed order through a popular catalog. This has the benefit of being able to receive generous discounts through bulk orders. The group as a whole ordered several hundred dollars worth of seeds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Food Safety Liability Insurance

Lately, the issue of food liability insurance has been discussed very frequently. As the new food safety regulations passed in Congress late last year, the issue of food safety and the small farmer has been brought front and center. This topic is more relevant than ever.

Food Safety Liability Insurance has been discussed several times over the last few months within the Tygart Valley Growers Association. Previously the issue was discussed in the context of the group incorporating itself and selling large amounts of produce. The debate has changed for the organization with the new food rules.

Fortunately, the Community Food Security Coalition has released materials that speak on this topic. During the Food, Culture and Justice conference last October there was a presentation on food safety liability insurance. Those materials can be accessed here:
Scroll down to where it says Food Safety and Liability Insurance Issues for Marketing to Institutions and download the relevant materials.

They began on a report in 2009 on this issue and compiled a report in December:
"This report is a compilation of a yearlong project to study food safety and liability insurance issues and offer recommendations that emphasize proactive and cooperative attention. If you are a cooperative extension educator, agricultural professional, non-profit staff member, institutional food service provider, or producer involved in the institutional produce market, this report will help you better understand the history of these issues, the challenges for small or limited resource producers, and options for addressing these challenges."
The report can be found here:

They also created a brochure of information:
"If you are a producer selling produce to institutional markets like schools, universities, corporations, hospitals, and prisons, your buyers may have special concerns about food safety. They may want you to prove that you handle food in a safe manner. They may require you to buy special insurance to protect them and their customers. This brochure explains these issues."
This brochure can be found here:

Finally, from Campbell Risk Management, here is a resource for Farmers Market Vendor Liability Insurance:

A big thank you to The Community Food Security Coalition for providing these print resources.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Group Seed Order

Wednesday January 5th, 2011 saw a great achievement with the Tygart Valley Growers Association. Two members of the association, Nina Melvin and Mary Beth Lind, organized a group seed order and potluck. The gathering went incredibly well. We had 22 people attend and lots of Fedco catalogs on hand for everyone that needed them. Unfortunately Lewis Jett of WVU extension, had other commitments and could not attend. In his place, we distributed copies of his 2011 seed variety recommendations.

The night opened with a delicious potluck supplied by all the participants. Much of the food was grown by the producers and featured some home-made horseradish, some turnips, and fresh carrots. The problem with these events is that one's plate is never large enough!

After everyone had their fill, Ben Nemeth, Americorps VISTA Volunteer, spoke about the Tygart Valley Growers Association for all the non-members that were in attendance. Ben gave a short background on the organization and what it does. He also handed out several forms, one was a copy of seed variety recommendations made by Lewis Jett of WVU extension, and the other was an invitation to a farm to school program at the Small Farm Conference in February.

Next, Brenda Hunt from Heart and Hand House, inc. spoke. Heart and Hand House, a local faith-based organization runs the community garden market. She spoke about how much she has seen the market grow in the last several years and what a successful season they had this last year. She also talked briefly about the markets continuation through the winter. It will be open the third saturday of January, February and March. She also took questions and comments from the producers present in the room (all of them sell at the community garden market). Brenda also brought some of the new reusable shopping bags that were made up for the market.

Lastly, Mary Beth Lind spoke. Mary Beth Lind is a local author and dietician and helped to organize this event with Nina Melvin. Mary Beth spoke about how to use the catalog, and described the website for the ordering. She needs to have the orders in by the 15th at the latest. Mary Beth also mentioned that the group is already over the $300 required for the 20% discount. This means the remaining orders could help us to reach the next target of a 22% discount! I would like to take this time to thank Mary Beth Lind and Nina Melvin for organizing this event. It was a great success only because of their hard work and dedication to the group. Way to go!

We closed with individual conversations on seed varieties and planting advice from the more experienced growers in the group.

This is an event we would like to repeat for next year. We would like to have even more producers present for a 2012 seed order and aim for the 24% discount!

I would also like to thank Crim Church in Philippi for allowing us to use their facilities for this event.

One last thing. This seed order points to something much larger happening in West Virginia. The growth of this group over the last seven months has been extraordinary. Thanks to the size and commitment of the group, things are now possible that were not even being considered six months ago. This points to the larger notion that there is motivation for these types of programs and they can be successful in West Virginia. This is not only the case in Barbour County, but for the whole of WV.