As with every other underlying problem, COVID-19 has illuminated the importance of having a resilient local food system. We’re realizing that local food supply is a necessity—and should be made a permanent part of our food shopping choices as a hedge against uncertainty, if there even is one. With hungry families all over Albuquerque, food waste is one less thing we need to turn a blind eye to.
Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s March 24 Public Health order deemed farmers' markets and other businesses that generate the majority of their revenue from food (like farm stands) "Essential Businesses." Farms, ranches, and other food cultivation, processing, or packaging operations were included in the order.
Albuquerque Farmers’ Markets will remain open, and are actively implementing operational changes to protect customers, farmers and staff, and to mitigate the spread of disease. This means that during pandemic protocols, farmers’ markets purchase fresh produce that has been touched by as few hands as possible.
Farmers markets and growers are imposing many safety precautions under the guidelines of the state of New Mexico and the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association. Many vendors’ booths are located outdoors with the sun and fresh air. Booths are spaced six feet apart and farmers, vendors, and market staff wear gloves and masks. Most foods are pre-bagged or packaged, and vendors sell only food products and food start plants. There is no product sampling of any kind.
Farmers markets have long served as a way to increase access to healthy fresh food for low-income areas, provide support for small farmers and local businesses, and bolster a strong, localized economy. Now, with insecurity of food access heightened, the agricultural food supply chain at risk, and local business closures, farmers markets are there to fill a critical local health and economic gap.
Several Albuquerque markets and growers accept federal and state nutrition benefits and allow low-income families to maximize these benefits through a variety of programs. Women Infants and Children (WIC) benefits, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) vouchers and SNAP benefits, also referred to as “EBT” and formerly known as “food stamps,” are now accepted at about half of the farmers’ markets in New Mexico. SNAP can be used at participating farmers’ markets just like at the grocery store for items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, jams, and other food.
Many markets and growers offer the chance to stretch your food dollars with “Double Up Food Bucks.” When you spend your SNAP EBT dollars at participating farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and grocery stores, it is easy to stretch your food dollars. Every dollar spent is doubled.
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is available for income-eligible seniors age 60 and over and gives up to $50 worth of checks that can be used to purchase fruits and at participating farmers’ markets between July 1 and Nov. 15.
The Women, Infant, Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program offers WIC clients $30 worth of checks that can be used participating New Mexico farmers’ markets between July 1 and Nov. 15 of the current market season.
Local farmers are also pivoting in order to accommodate lost revenue from restaurant partnerships by taking on direct grower-to-consumer relations through fresh produce boxes or CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) sign-ups. With the growing concerns of the spreading pandemic, CSAs have seen a surge in membership. Members of a CSA can place an order for a farm fresh box of produce at the beginning of the week for pick up.
Check out the list of farmers’ markets and find local food shopping outlets like CSAs, farm stands, grower cooperatives, and grocery stores that buy local at FarmersMarketsNM.