Editor’s Note: Edits have been made to this article after publication.
The crisp morning air fills with the aroma of California grown fruits and vegetables as farmers unload trucks filled with their freshly picked bounty.
Locally produced meat, egg and cheese vendors join the seasonal varieties of colorful produce.
Alongside local farmers, the Alchemist Community Development Corporation (CDC), sets up shop to bridge two communities—an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer)/CalFresh (formerly known as Food Stamps) project for qualifying low-income individuals.
Since early autumn, the Alchemist CDC’s EBT/CalFresh project has enabled recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to access healthy, locally produced food and support local farmers with the swipe of an EBT card at Sacramento area farmers’ markets.
Over 40 vendors have chosen to accept SNAP payments at three area farmers’ markets—over 260 EBT transactions have already taken place.
“The Florin Market is exceeding our expectations,” says Davida Douglas, Executive Director of Alchemist CDC.
The Florin Sears Store Farmers’ Market at Florin Road and 65th Street has completed its sixth week averaging about 30-60 transactions per week.
The State Parking Lot Farmers’ Market on Eighth and W streets downtown completed its second week averaging a dozen transactions per week.
With assistance from Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, promotional postcards were distributed to SNAP recipients who reside within the neighborhoods of local farmers’ markets.
Douglas expects the popularity of the program to grow as more outreach is implemented within the local community.
The Alchemist CDC program is easy for SNAP recipients to use. At the Alchemist CDC booth, credit from EBT Cards is exchanged for paper scrip. Dollar for dollar, patrons exchange their scrip for purchases with participating vendors.
“Some farmers are really excited about the program and have been waiting for it,” says Douglas, the only full-time employee of the nonprofit organization.
After the farmers’ market has closed, the farm vendors return their earned scrip to Alchemist CDC and are reimbursed later for their sales at a 10 percent fee to cover administrative costs.
Douglas recognizes the challenge for small growers to receive payment for their produce late due to the program’s current reliance on grant funds.
"By reducing the frequency of the administrative work, check writing and accounting, Alchemist CDC is attempting to make the program financially self-sustaining."
Rather than relying on funding which delays payment to the vendors, the goal of the program is to become financially self-sustaining—having more SNAP recipients attend the farmers’ market to cover the administrative expenses.
Douglas says that Alchemist CDC is open to adjustment, and may lower farmer’s fees as the program gains popularity and proves to be financially sustainable.
With the growing interest in community health and strengthening local economies by supporting farmers, demand for Alchemist CDC’s EBT/CalFresh project continues to grow.
EBT processing is also planned for the Laguna Farmers’ Market in Elk Grove and the Sunrise Farmers’ Market in Rancho Cordova once more EBT machines arrive.