Spryfield Farmers Market turns to tokens for convenience, food security
Small wooden tokens to be treated like $5 bills by vendors
A small farmers market in the Spryfield area of Halifax has come up with a program organizers hope will help solve two problems in the community.
The first goal is to allow people who have trouble affording fresh food to shop at the market. The second goal is to make it more convenient for shoppers who show up at the farmers market without cash on hand.
"As a vendor at a market, you've always got people going, 'Oh, I didn't bring any cash,'" said Patti Clark, the Spryfield Farmers Market manager. "We're trying to make it more convenient for people."
With the market's new tokens program, people can go to the market staff with their credit cards or debit cards to buy small wooden tokens about the size of a toonie. All of the vendors at the market treat the tokens the same way as a $5 bill, giving change in cash.
Chris Musgrave, the owner of Mount Denson Blueberry Farm, said he thinks the program is a good idea. It's common for people to come to the farmers markets he attends with large bills or no cash at all. He isn't able to accept plastic.
"The last market I attended in Prospect, I was asked if I could take an e-transfer. I don't even own a cell phone, so I had to say no," he said.
The Spryfield token program started a week ago.
Musgrave, who also sells products for other neighbouring Hantsport farms, said someone used the tokens to purchase 20 pounds of meat at a cost of $80.
Shane Gerrits, the owner of Odds and Herbs vegetable farm, said he received about $30 worth of tokens during the first week.
"I'm hoping to see more use of them as the season goes," he said.
While anyone can use the tokens for convenience, Clark also wants them to serve another purpose in the future.
She's fundraising to donate $1,000 of tokens each month to the two food banks run by the St. Paul's Family Resources Institute for distribution to their clients.
St. Paul's United Church is the location for the market that takes place every two weeks from May to October. Clark recognizes that many people on a low income live nearby but aren't able shop at the market.
"These are people that wouldn't normally come to the market because, well, they can't afford it," she said. "They wouldn't normally feel welcome, and that's so wrong."
Kristen Hollery is the community ministry director at St. Paul's and manages the food banks. She thinks the program will be a popular one with the 150 people who access them.
"It gives people the right to be able to choose to buy what they want," she said. "We don't always at the food bank have what people need or want ... we only have what people donate to us. So, this gives people the ability to go and be able to choose."
Hollery said it's significant for peoples' dignity that there will be no way to tell who is using a token for convenience and who is using a token because they received it through the food bank.