• LifeStyles of Maryland

‘Buy Local Week’ Means Extra Nutrition Benefits at La Plata Farmers Market

The mother handed her young son 10 red tokens and told him to pick out what he wanted to eat.

As he browsed the offerings beneath the Rootbound Farms tent, his eyes scanned over the selection of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, cherry tomatoes and more. Of all things, his gaze stopped on a stylish, handmade wooden soap dish. That’s what he wanted.

“I said, ‘Buddy, I can’t sell you that for the tokens,’” Woody Delauder recalled. “I felt so bad.”

The tokens represent federal nutrition benefits, made available through programs like SNAP and WIC. Each Wednesday and Saturday at the La Plata Farmers Market, the Maryland Market Money program offers extra incentives by providing a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $10 each market day.

So the boy spent his $10 worth of tokens on fresh local vegetables. Then Delauder, a former teacher turned full-time farmer, surprised the young man and gave him the soap dish as a gift.

That’s what shopping local is all about — creating connections and supporting each other.

This Saturday kicks off the Maryland Buy Local Challenge. Each of us is encouraged to look for opportunities to support local farmers and producers from July 17 through July 25.

For the next week, it means that individuals and families participating in the federal nutrition programs will get an additional $5 in Maryland Market Money to spend on healthy, locally grown food at the farmers market.

In La Plata, LifeStyles of Maryland coordinates the Maryland Market Money program, which is run jointly by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), a division of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, and the Maryland Agricultural & Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO).

“I’m telling everybody, ‘Come back and see us because you’ll get extra dollars,’” said Dawn Bowling of Fox Run Farm. “You’ve got to stretch your dollars as far as you can. When you’ve got kids, you want them to eat healthy instead of reaching for a candy bar.”

Fox Run Farm has one of the largest displays at the La Plata Farmers Market, offering a full range of fresh produce from their farm in Faulkner. The farm is among the most popular with customers using Maryland Market Money, and Bowling never misses an opportunity to promote the program.

“Whenever we see someone who has WIC in their hand, we explain to them that they can get extra money, and they’re always excited to take advantage of that,” she said. “It’s all about word of mouth and getting it out there so people know it’s available.”

She directs those customers to a nearby tent, staffed by Cindy McCallam, representing LifeStyles and Charles County Food Connection. She typically organizes the distribution of the Maryland Market Money tokens, ensuring participants are taking maximum advantage of the program.

On Wednesday this week, she handed out tokens, and the recipient walked directly to the nearest tent where Scott Bowling of Bowling Greenhouse at Jameson Farm explained the variety of fresh vegetables he had available.

Shopping at the farmers market is always a win-win proposition. Shoppers go home with delicious, healthy food. And they’re helping keep Southern Maryland agriculture alive and well.

Interested in taking the Buy Local Challenge? Learn more and take the pledge.

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