Camas Farmer’s Market, a non-profit organization, participates in the SNAP and Fresh Match programs

Making fresh food accessible to all

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Beautiful, deep red bing cherries. Bunches of luscious, sweet scented lavender. Tall, bright green, crisp asparagus. Tender, light crepes stuffed with smooth, creamy peanut butter and drizzled with chocolate sauce. A cool glass of tart lemonade, with just a hint of sweet flavor.

These freshly picked and homemade items are just a sampling of what is available right now at the Camas Farmer’s Market. It was established six years ago and aims to provide the community with fresh produce, as well as freshly made items like breads, crepes, cupcakes, salsas, honey and juices.

As a non-profit organization, one of its primary goals is to make these kinds of fresh foods accessible to all people, no matter what their economic situation. In support of this mission, a partnership has been established with Clark County Public Health.

For the second year in a row, the Camas Farmer’s Market is part of a program that makes it possible for people receiving SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, to purchase farm fresh food. In addition, as part of Fresh Match, people using SNAP benefits can have the amount they spend matched with up to $5 in tokens. Fresh Match at the Camas Market is made possible through a grant from New Seasons Market.

According to Don Strick of Clark County Public Health, among the three markets that participate in SNAP–Camas, Salmon Creek and Vancouver — in 2012 there was a 68 percent increase in the number of transactions and 41 percent increase in SNAP sales. SNAP shoppers visited farmers markets 2,307 times, making 43,866 in purchases.

“It’s really an integral part of getting people here each week to buy vegetables and produce,” said Theresa Cross, Clark County Public Health, of the partnership. “It gives them an incentive to come and experience the market, and also to support small businesses. People are starting to hear the word that this is available.”

There are some misconceptions that purchasing from farmers markets is more expensive than shopping in a traditional grocery store. There are many benefits to buying just-picked produce.

“You know that what you get here is fresh,” Cross said. “It will stay longer in the crisper. You can also get information about the food and how to cook it here, there’s an education component. You can actually talk to the farmer.”

Roy and Jo Grace Buck are the owners of Washougal’s Ever Green Farm. They’ve been vendors at the Camas Farmer’s Market for three years, and are enthusiastic supporters of the SNAP program.

“We are strong believers that good food is important for all people,” Jo said. “I want to expose people to really great food.”

She said she takes pride in what her farm produces, and enjoys sharing the bounty with her neighbors.

“Most people are in that situation not because of choice, but because of circumstance,” she said. “There are people I know who have been there before, or could be there. It’s just important to take care of people.”

Heidi O’Connor, owner of the non-profit organization The Kids Cooking Corner, put on a cooking demonstration at a recent Camas Farmer’s Market. Preparing a gluten free dish of Thai rice noodles, she said her mission and the farmer’s market’s vision mesh well together.

“We are an all-volunteer organization. No one who wants to take a class is turned away because of money,” O’Connor said. “We are here to teach kids the importance of nutrition, and not eating food out of a box.”