To continue the theme of discussing small/niche farmers, most of those in the know are aware that SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) can be accepted at farmers markets. The wrinkle? The farmers market needed to find the appropriate equipment to connect wirelessly (which also meant a wireless plan), find and work with an approved USDA payment processor and understand various rates and rules of the processor.
But the last sentence is written in the past tense because the USDA has announced MarketLink, a new, one stop shop for direct marketing farmers and farmers markets to become authorized to accept SNAP benefits and acquire the equipment needed. MarketLink also has an eligibility assessment to determine if you and/or the farmers market qualifies for free equipment. MarketLink also includes information on how the program works and training presentations for farmers.
Is the program worth it? This article indicates it is worth a serious look. Not only have the number of farmers markets steadily grown with 8,000 in August 2013, SNAP redemption have almost doubled from 2011 to 2013. In 2013 alone, SNAP accounted for $20.4 million in sales at farmers markets.
With spring approaching, it may be worth a few minutes of your time to determine if MarketLink is a good program for you. It may just fit into your operation seamlessly and provide another consumer outlet.