By David F. Rooney
A successful coupon project that helps poor people take advantage of local farmers’ markets may not receive any funding from the province next year, says the program’s manager.
“We received a two-year grant in 2008 but we haven’t been successful at getting funding for 2010,” says Paul Luther, manager of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets’ coupon project.
She said, while touring Revelstoke’s Farmers’ Market Saturday, that the province’s apparent $3 billion shortfall in funding could mean the project will not go ahead next year.
The coupon project gives poor people who might otherwise not be able it, access to afford the fresh foods at farmers’ markets. The program is available in 16 communities. Only four, however, are in the Interior. Revelstoke is one of two small Interior communities where the project was launched this year. The other is Nelson.
“It’s a transformative experience of many people,” she said. “One family told us it was the first time they’d had things like fresh cherries. There was another family where this little boy had taken on the job of shelling the peas they bought at the Farmers’ Market. That was his job — shelling peas. It was very cute.”
Patti Larson, who coordinates the coupon project here in Revelstoke agrees.
“One person told me they didn’t realize there was such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available (in the local Farmers’ Market),” ehs aid. “It’s important in another way, too. We’re at a point with some families where there are two generations of people who don’t have cooking skills.”
Part of the program teaches participating families how to prepare and cook fresh food.
“One of the great things about this kind of fresh food is that you can taste the love that is in the food,” Luther said. “Locally produced food is grown by farmers who really care about their crops.”
The popularity of farmers’ markets and the fresh, BC-grown foods they offer is a boon to small farmers.
“Ten percent of our vendors want to increase their production and 14 per cent want to increase the variety of the foods they grow,” Luther said. “But will this coupon program continue? That’s the $1 million question.”