By Jan F. Demers
I could “hear” the sparkle in her eyes and a love of life in her voice. We were speaking over the phone and this amazing woman told me of her love of gardens and children. She was talking with me about Farm to Family coupons and in the telling I learned about her own gardens and the way that she cared for her family.
Because of the Farm to Family Program, fresh vegetables were on this woman’s table. Some were purchased through the 3 Squares Program, some came from her garden, and some were purchased from farmers markets, with her Farm to Family coupons.
“I love to go to this one stand. The woman there has the most beautiful vegetables. I go to her stand every year…Oh, did you know I canned 25 quarts of dill pickles last year? My grandson loves those crisp, sour pickles,” she said.
The Farm to Family Program is one of the most enjoyable and popular programs offered at Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. The calls start coming in at least a month prior. “When are the coupons available? I’ll be there.” The waiting room is packed full of people waiting for the coupons that give them access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
We do not have to advertise.
About one in four families are eligible for the Farm to Family program. To be eligible you must be in enrolled in the WIC (Women Infant and Children) program or have a household income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The limits for 2017 are $1,832 a month for a single person, $2,470 for a couple, or $3,746 for a family of four. Some of the coupons are reserved for income-eligible seniors.
WIC participants receive a booklet from the Department of Health. All others should come to the CVOEO County Community Action offices in St. Albans, Burlington and Middlebury. There are 10 coupons worth $3 apiece in each booklet.
The Farm to Family Program started June 26 and goes until all booklets are distributed. Most participants need to be physically present to pick up the coupon booklets. Seniors or those who are disabled and not able to come in person arrange for a proxy to pick up their coupon booklet. CVOEO staff members also make trips to senior citizen sites to distribute the coupons.
There is another bonus through a program called Crop Cash. Farmers markets those using 3 Squares VT benefits can double their money by using their EBT card up to $10 per day. It is a one-to-one match when purchasing fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds and starts. Printed materials listing all participating farmers markets are published and distributed with the coupon booklets.
The Chittenden Community Action Office is located at 255 South Champlain Street in Burlington.
As one mom put it, “The freshly-picked tomatoes and corn I purchased cannot compare with anything else: much more satisfying.”
Thank you, state of Vermont.
Jan F. Demers is Executive Director of CVOEO