Philomath Farmers' Market
Philomath Farmers' Market (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath Farmers’ Market organizers received positive news in recent days with the local operation now able to accept the Oregon Trail Card to purchase food items. Janel Lajoie, hired this summer to serve as the market manager, sees the news as positive for not only the individuals and families receiving those benefits, but also for vendors, the market and the entire community.

“The folks that are using their SNAP benefits at the Philomath Farmers’ Market are putting every dollar right back into Philomath (and) into the pockets of our vendors that are also our neighbors,” she said. “Each one of those dollars is spent on healthy, hyperlocal food — fruits and veggies and other products grown and produced here in our hometown, not at the big box stores.”

An Oregon Trail Card is an electronic benefits transfer card that is similar to a bank-issued debit card. The Department of Human Services uses the EBT card to get benefits to clients. Oregon Trail Cards are used mostly for food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The farmers’ market can actually accept an EBT card issued from any state.

“Especially under COVID, many families in our area fall under the federal poverty level and therefore qualify for nutritional aid,” Lajoie said about the potential number of people that could be impacted.

The farmers’ market initiated the process to be able to accept SNAP benefits back in February.

“The government requires a whole lot of information before they allow a market or store to accept SNAP,” Lajoie said. “I feel really fortunate that we were successful — it is a great addition to our market and community.”

Lajoie said many vendors also participate in the Oregon Farm Direct Nutrition Program (FDNP), a state-administered, federal nutrition program that serves families enrolled in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program and income-eligible seniors. FDNP participants receive green $4 checks to spend on fresh, locally-grown fruits, vegetables and cut edible herbs directly with authorized farmers.

The farmers’ market is scheduled to run for five more Sundays until Sept. 12. Lajoie said it’s been a positive run so far this summer.

“We have been busier than last year with a wide variety of items,” she said. “The heat has had a little effect, I think, on folks coming out but there are people we see every single week.”

The market this year has been featuring live music and consistent participation among several vendors has been seen. There are exceptions with some of the smaller farms not able to be at the market every Sunday.

“We consistently have about 13-ish vendors — looks like we should have 17 this week,” Lajoie said.

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