Ecology Center partners with over 55 organizations across the state to operate the Market Match program at farmers’ markets and other farm-direct sites by providing extra money to customers spending their CalFresh dollars on locally-produced food. Since 2017, Market Match has partnered with the Crescent City Downtown Divas, a nonprofit founded by women-owned businesses and operated by a volunteer board.
While the Market Match Program partners with markets with all sizes of customer bases, the program also aims to make a meaningful impact in low population and rural communities like Crescent City, which has a population of less than 7,000 people. Market Match makes an impact not only for customers but also for the farmers who sell at the market, some operating at a very small scale.
The Crescent City Downtown Divas aim to nourish their community by incubating small business, supporting Del Norte County’s local food system, and engaging school-aged children. Their Downtown Crescent City Farmers & Artisans Market operates the Market Match program, increasing access to fresh foods and vegetables to their community in Del Norte County, CA.
The market has seen their CalFresh sales and Market Match incentive distribution triple over the last four years with almost $3,000 Market Match incentives distributed in 2021. Billie Tygart, who serves on the Board of Directors, says that customers will specifically come to the Wednesday market because of the multiple match programs that match spending of Calfresh/EBT, WIC benefits, and $2 vouchers from Open Door Community Health Center vouchers, which are matched with a partnership with Del Norte Health District and local businesses.
Downtown Divas have a deep focus on the youth of Crescent City—the school district distributes free breakfast and lunches at the farmers’ market and the market partners with organizations like the Del Norte Child Care Council to host the Wonder Bus, a mobile early literacy program. The market hosts staff from the local CalFresh office to distribute flyers and information on how to sign up for CalFresh/EBT at the market, as well.
The market also sponsors a small business incubator: a co-op table for backyard farmers to come and try selling at the market. The Divas hold the business license, provide tables and chairs, and charge a $4 fee for a backyard grower to sell any extra produce. Growers get 2-3 co-op days with the potential to become a regular vendor and establish a true local farm.