About 30 minutes before the City of Whitesburg/Letcher County Farmers Market opened for business Saturday morning, a long line had formed stretching from the market’s first tent to the entrance of the City’s parking lot.
“It was an incredibly great start to our market season,” said Janet Kincer, the market manager. “Everybody seemed happy to see the farmers market open for the season.”
Local farmers and vendors garnered $4,000 in sales on June 4.
“On Saturday, we had the largest crowd and the largest sales in the three years it has been active,” said Valerie Horn, market co-chair.
Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation’s fruit and vegetable voucher program attributed to $2,310 or 54 percent of total sales. In the second year of MCHC’s Farmacy program, MCHC patients continue to redeem vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmacy vouchers were given to 192 individuals to redeem at last Saturday’s farmers market. Those vouchers benefit 528 family members who live with the Farmacy program participants.
Patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and patients who are pregnant qualify for the program. Patients who meet federal poverty guidelines and are diagnosed with hypertension, obesity or diabetes may be eligible for produce vouchers.
Participants can get a new voucher each week by requesting a voucher from a MCHC certified pharmacy technician.
“The Farmacy program helps us help our patients by giving them better health and stretching their dollars further,” said MCHC CEO L.M. “Mike” Caudill. “It allows us to help our citizens by contributing to the local economy and supporting our local farmers.”
Farmacy partners include Community Farm Alliance, WellCare, Passport, BB&T and Delta Dental.
Vouchers programs are also geared toward senior citizens and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) participants. Senior citizens can contact the Letcher County Senior Citizens Program to apply for a senior voucher program through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. WIC vouchers are available at the Letcher County Health Department.
The farmers market has new programs and initiatives planned for this season. To encourage physical activity, the farmers market will implement the Tanglewood Walk beginning June 29. People who park at the Whitesburg Municipal Swimming Pool and walk with a market representative to downtown will be given wooden tokens to spend at the farmers market. Those planning to walk to the farmers market will meet at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. on Saturdays at the swimming pool parking lot. Participants will receive $5 on Wednesdays and $10 on Saturdays.
The Tanglewood Walk is funded through Marshall University, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Activities for children will also begin June 29. Children will receive $5 to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. The kids day program is a partnership between the Letcher County Health Department and Healthy Kentucky Program.
“ This will allow kids to have control over food choices, eat more fruits and vegetables and make going to the market exciting,” said Horn.
This Saturday children will have the opportunity to try out a fender blender, a bicycle with a blender attached to it. Children can make fruit smoothies by pedaling a bike to power a blender filled with yogurt, honey and fresh fruit.
Cowan Community Action Group is sponsoring the United States Department of Agriculture Summer Feeding Service Project. Meals are available from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Children under 18 eat free and adult meals are $4. Strawberry smoothies and vegetable wraps were served to 70 children and 21 adults last Saturday.
The summer feeding program operated out of a food booth trailer provided by the Mountain Shrine Club for the last two years. Cowan Community Action Group obtained a new food booth trailer from a smallscale farm grant through Kentucky State University.
Volunteers were as plentiful as the produce. The Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students from Letcher County Central High School volunteered at the farmers market by helping set up and clean up. They unloaded produce from vehicles and helped vendors in various ways.
Robertson Scholars from Duke University and University of North Carolina volunteered with the farmers market.
Arts and craft vendors sell items the second Saturday of each month.
Live music will be provided by a place-making grant awarded to Ben Fin and Appalshop.
Sponsors of the farmers market include the City of Whitesburg, Community Farm Alliance, Letcher County Extension Office, Cowan Community Center and Grow Appalachia.
The farmers market is located in the free parking lot by the Veterans Memorial Museum and is open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Saturday until October. The farmers market will be open from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning June 29.