Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture

Jessica Bessin
Universtiy of Kentucky

Bessin, J.*1,
1 Horticulture, Universtiy of Kentucky, Harrodsburg, KY, 40330

The Mercer County Farmers Market had big plans for the 2020 market season. Multiple events were scheduled at the market throughout the whole summer. Then COVID arrived, however the market was still able to pursue one of their most successful programs even with COVID restrictions.

 Farm Fresh to Table program brought multiple groups within the Mercer County together to provide fresh produce to low income families. The Mercer county Horticulture Agent had planned a veggie voucher program with the farmers market. The market would distribute these vouchers to children throughout the summer at different events. During the planning process, the Horticulture Agent crossed paths with different community groups who had similar programing ideas.

Heart of Kentucky United Way, Mercer County Community Endowment, Mercer Schools, Mercer County Farmers Market, and Mercer County Extension combined forces to plan how to get fresh produce to children in the community. An established cooking club within the school who works closely with Mercer County’s SNAP Assistant, ended up being the target audience for this pilot year. 

Throughout the summer, children would visit the farmers market once a month and receive a bag of produce valued at $20. Recipes that correlated with the produce and veggie vouchers were also given out with each bag. 70% of the participants surveyed said they are now adding a new vegetable into their meal planning due to exposure of a new vegetable from these bags. 100% of the participant’s surveyed plan to supplement shopping at the farmers market with their regular grocery shopping. The success of this program not only provided local produce to children, but exposure for the farmers market that helps support local growers and the economy.