MTSU’s role in a collaboration aimed at helping low-income residents and fixed-income senior citizens to eat healthier has proven to be an instant success.
Farmers and consumers say the newly implemented EBT, debit- and credit-card payment method is a hit at the Rutherford County Farmers’ Market. Officials from partnering organizations shared the news at a special June 15 event.
MTSU’s community partnership with the UT/TSU Extension-operated Rutherford County Farmers’ Market celebrated the kickoff to the “Grow Healthy Rutherford Initiative” at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center in Murfreesboro.
“This is going wonderfully. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for years,” said Janie Becker, farmers’ market manager. “The producers are seeing a lot of economic impact. They’ve been pleased since the first day (May 11). They are seeing sales they wouldn’t have seen before.
“The response from EBT customers has been especially rewarding,” Becker added. “They came in the first day saying they always wanted to buy produce from local farmers, but there was nowhere to buy it (with EBT cards). Being the first farmers’ market in the county to accept EBT (payments) has been worth the effort.”
At the June 15 event, Dr. Warren Gill, MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience director, and Anthony Tuggle, UT Extension director for Rutherford County, welcomed guests and explained the “Grow Healthy Rutherford Initiative.”
Through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Promotion Program grant, MTSU has helped implement a system that lets farmers’ market customers make EBT, credit and debit payments to obtain tokens to make their purchases.
In usually less than a week, MTSU Accounting Services reimburses the farmers by either direct deposit or check.
Ben Jones, assistant director for accounting services, said his office “is excited to be part of it” and credited Dr. Justin Gardner, an agribusiness and agriscience professor, for spearheading “a great program.”
“He has done a great job,” Jones said of Gardner. “ The farmers were used to a cash transaction. We try to turn around these (card) transactions as quickly as we can so they can get their payments as quickly as possible.”
MTSU senior ag-education major Gabby Starr of Hendersonville, Tenn., junior ag-business major Alvin Jensen of Ashland City, Tenn., and senior plant-and-soil-science major Daniel Messick of Shelbyville, Tenn., are serving as farmers’ market interns.
Gardner said there “are no geographical restrictions” attached to the EBT, debit or credit payment option. That means people from neighboring Cannon, Bedford, Wilson, Davidson, Williamson and Maury counties, as well as others, also are welcome.
Becker said the grant also helps fund a free seasonal-eating demonstration at 10 a.m. on the last Tuesday of each month through Oct. 30.
The Rutherford County Farmers’ Market is open from 7 a.m. until noon each Tuesday and Friday until the end of October. Beginning Nov. 4 through Dec. 16, market officials again will add an extended season on Sundays from 1 until 4 p.m. For more information, call Rutherford County Extension at 615-898-7710.
On campus, MTSU’s Student Farmers Market operates every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. until mid-August. For more information, call 615-898-2523 or 615-494-8996 or visit mtsunews.com/student-farmers-market-2012.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)