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Ogdensburg farmers market hopes to add food stamp incentive

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The Ogdensburg GreenMarket farmers market is hoping to be included next year in a program that will see food stamp spending rewarded and encouraged.

Sandra M. Porter, executive director of the Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Green Market, said community members who use food stamps at the market represent about 5 percent of the overall traffic. She hopes to see that number rise.

GardenShare operates a grant-funded program that gives customers $1.50 in credit for every $1 of food stamps used at the markets.

“We would love to expand to Ogdensburg as well,” said Aviva Gold, executive director of GardenShare, a nonprofit organization that works at increasing access to locally grown food.

Currently the farmers markets in Potsdam, Canton and Ogdensburg are the only ones in St. Lawrence County that accept food stamps. Both Canton and Potsdam offer the program that gives a bonus for customers using food stamps, but Ogdensburg has been inadvertently left out of the program, Ms. Gold said.

“I applied for the grant, without really thinking it through, if would it be possible to include other organizations,” said Ms. Gold.

The program has made a significant impact on the farmers markets in Canton and Potsdam, both of which are larger than the Ogdensburg GreenMarket.

“This year, between the two markets [Canton and Potsdam], including the incentives, $7,500 in food stamp money has been spent this season,” said Ms. Gold.

She said that represents more than double the take from 2011.

The GreenMarket garners roughly five vendors on a regular basis. Potsdam doubles that number while Canton, home of the largest farmer’s market in the county, has more than 20 vendors.

“The Canton market is an institution,” Ms. Porter said. “I want to get Ogdensburg to that point.”

Ms. Gold has not yet applied for next year’s grant. The money to entice food stamp spending this season was funded through private donations and the state’s FreshConnect program.

The Ogdensburg Green Market also accepts coupons from the Women, Infants and Children program.

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