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U.S. Small Business Administration Visits Brunswick Farmers Market

Izzy Ruffin sells Maine wild blueberry products to Lost & Found Farms at the Brunswick Farmers Market. Maria Skillings/Times Records

With National Farmers Market Week just around the corner, officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration visited a market in Brunswick on Tuesday to discuss the role of farmers in the local economy and tout government plans to boost their businesses.

Mike Vracic, the New England Regional Administrator of the Bureau of Management, was one of the officials to stop by Brunswick, joined by Congressman Shelley Pingree.

“SBA is focused on expanding outreach to rural communities to increase access to capital, support rural enterprise exports, and make rural communities more resilient through the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.” said Vlacich. “By visiting the Brunswick Farmers Market and doing what we did today, we support events like National Farmers Market Week. We support local businesses and keep our economy strong. It showcases the amazing work they do to help.”

National Farmers Market Week starts on Sunday, August 7th. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers’ markets contribute his $9 billion to the American economy each year. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, the number of farmers markets he has had nearly 2,000 since 1994, but this year he has quadrupled to 8,600.

“SBA encourages small businesses to be locally involved by selling at farmers markets. To build a truly strong economy, the principle is to buy locally made, American products wherever possible. Because we need to accept the ,” Vracic said. “Farmer’s Market is a great place to do this. You can meet customers face-to-face and foster business connections, especially through networking with fellow vendors.”

Vlacich said the SBA provided $205 million to small businesses in Maine last year through its traditional lending program.

One in eight households in Maine considers food to be insecure, and some families shy away from farmers markets, believing they are too expensive.

Jimmy Debiasi, Executive Director of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, partnered with the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, to break through that barrier by creating Maine Harvest Bucks in 2015. said he did.

Maine Harvest Bucks is a nutrition incentive program that enables SNAP/EBT users to buy more fruits and vegetables from local farmers by receiving “bonus bucks” when shopping at local farmers markets.

Lost & Found Farm worker Izzy Ruffin called the partnership with SNAP “amazing.”

“I really appreciate the expansion that puts a spotlight on local ingredients and local producers,” says Ruffin. “Growing up in a low-income family, I could never imagine my family shopping at a farmers market. I feel more connected to the community.”

Taking it one step further, MFFM partnered with local businesses to launch a bumper crop program in 2019. In this program, employers award workers gift certificates that can be redeemed at participating local farmers’ markets.

According to MFFM, “Bumper Crop is a workplace health and employee appreciation solution for Maine employers of all sizes, promoting healthy local foods and supporting Maine’s economy. ,” said MFFM.

Employers who issued certificates are billed at the end of the fiscal year for redeemed certificates.

Sixty-three percent of employees who took advantage of the program reported eating more fruits and vegetables, and 41% reported shopping at farmers markets more often. Over 700 of her employees across the state attended and spent over $30,000 of his on gift certificates at 36 different markets in Maine. According to MFFM, 92% of those same shoppers report spending their money as well.

Pingree emphasized that farmers markets play an important role in the local economy during this time.

“Many tourists come to Maine to eat our seafood and fresh produce, or take it home and cook it,” she said. It’s a very important part.”

Congressman Sherry Pingree sampling raspberries from a vendor at Fairwinds Farm. Maria Skillings/Times Records

Congressman Sherry Pingree (left) buys homemade pretzels from Steve Peters bakery Hootenanny. Maria Skillings/Times Records

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