Farmers’ Market EBT Program

The Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market EBT Program assists farmers’ market operators and community partners in establishing, implementing, and promoting CalFresh EBT access (formerly known as Food Stamps) at farmers’ markets and other direct-marketing locations. This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and people like you.

This online Toolkit is designed to assist farmers’ market managers, associations, Board members, or farmers in establishing or bolstering their farm-direct outlet’s EBT program. If you are a customer interested in learning more about CalFresh visit the California Department of Social Services site, or visit our Farmers’ Market Finder to find a farmers’ market near you that accepts your CalFresh EBT card.

Contact Us
Email: ebt@ecologycenter.org
Phone: 510-925-4001
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Find your market on Farmers’ Market Finder and reach out if your listing needs updating

HISTORY

When Food Stamps moved to an Electronic Benefits Transfer system in 2003, farmers’ markets and the farmers they served were left out of the loop.

The Ecology Center worked with state and federal agencies to select and pilot the Single Point of Sale and Scrip model that is now used across the state. Since pioneering California’s Point of Sale model (POS) at the Ecology Center’s Berkeley Market in 2003, the Farmers’ Market EBT Program has worked with hundreds of markets statewide to identify the barriers to CalFresh EBT adoption and overcome them. To date, we’ve assisted over 350 individual markets statewide with their EBT Programs.


What is a Certified Farmers' Market?

A Certified Farmers’ Market (CFM) is a “point of sale” location for California agricultural products. CFMs are usually set up on a weekly basis for California farmers and ranchers (“producers”) to gather together and sell their agricultural products directly to the public.

A Certified Farmers’ Market may only be operated by a local government, a certified producer or a non-profit organization. CFMs must be authorized by the county agricultural commissioner and abide by current legislation and regulations. In addition, CFMs should follow established market rules. Market rules are the set of written rules each CFM develops as its blueprint for activities and operations.

Only producers certified by the county agriculture commissioner may sell at a CFM and must display their Certified Producer Certificate, and a sign with language akin to “We Grow What We Sell.” The re-sale of agricultural products at a CFM is prohibited.

While the look and feel of Certified Farmers’ Markets throughout the state varies greatly from county to county, the one thing they all have in common is the selling of agricultural products grown or raised in California. They ensure a direct connection between consumers and the farmers that grow their food. Being a CFM also opens up the opportunity to take advantage of the free POS device program through the California Department of Social Services, as well as free resources from the Ecology Center when setting up an EBT program. It also allows you to be listed on the Ecology Center’s online farmers’ market search tool and map, Farmers’ Market Finder.

If you are interested in becoming a Certified Farmers’ Market and your market is located in one of the counties listed here, you can complete the online application. If your county does not participate in CDFA’s online application system, then you can contact your county agricultural commissioner’s office to find out how to register.

California Department of Agriculture Certified Farmers’ Market Program
(916) 900-5030
cfm@cdfa.ca.gov
https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/egov/farmersmarket

For more information or support with setting up a new Certified Farmers’ Market, please visit farmersmarketalliance.org


WHAT IS EBT?

Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, are no longer issued paper Food Stamps. Instead, they are issued an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card where recipients can access their food benefits electronically by swiping their card at the point of sale.

In order to accept CalFresh EBT cards, farmers’ markets typically establish a central Point of Sale (POS) model, allowing the market to sell EBT scrip to customers at a central point in the market. The customer then spends their EBT scrip with any eligible food producer in the market and the market manager later redeems the scrip for cash or in place of a stall fee. This system requires the farmers’ market manager or operator to become authorized as a SNAP retailer by Federal Nutrition Services (FNS) USDA, and to implement and promote the EBT program.


How does it work at the Farmers' Market?

The central Point of Sale (POS) and scrip system allows all eligible food vendors in a multi-vendor farmers’ market to sell eligible food products to CalFresh EBT recipients without each vendor needing individual authorization by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). Click here to see a short video on this model.

The central POS device is usually located at a staffed market information table or carried by an easily identifiable market staff person. Regardless of the location, market signage should direct EBT cardholders to the POS device.

The staff person asks the customer how much of her food benefits she would like to transfer to scrip. Then the staff person swipes the customer’s card, which debits the amount she requests from the balance stored on the card. (This amount is then transferred from the customer’s account to the market’s or association’s bank account.)

The staff person then issues scrip in the amount requested by the customer. The scrip can be either tokens or paper. (See the tab on the left, EBT SCRIP, for details and regulations.) The customer can use the scrip with vendors in the market to purchase eligible food products. At the end of the market day, vendors trade the scrip for cash, check, or a receipt for future payment from the market operator. The customer can return unused scrip for credit on her EBT card, or hold the scrip for later use. The operating market or association should maintain records and security systems for EBT scrip distribution and redemption. (See Staffing & Redemption Models)


How will this benefit my Farmers' Market or Farm?

CalFresh serves over 4 million clients with nearly $8 billion in federal nutrition benefits. When you add EBT access to your market, you open this $8 billion market to your farmers. Check out this two page argument on why your farmers’ market should add EBT access:


Free EBT Webinars


Free Training Webinars!
Click on the links below to view recordings of the full webinars.

Adding EBT Access to Your Farmers’ Market
(Hosted February 2018)
Get an overview of all the steps and requirements to getting your farmers’ market EBT authorized. We cover filling out the FNS application, obtaining a free POS device, designing scrip, implementation at the market, as well as outreach and incentive programs. This webinar is great for farmers’ markets who are just starting the EBT authorization process.

How to Run a Successful Farmers’ Market EBT Program
(Hosted June 2019)
Learn about common barriers for EBT shoppers, outreach to customers, creating community partnerships, how to access the Ecology Center’s free resources, and incentive programs. This webinar is great for markets who are interested in adding EBT, already have EBT access, and for markets interested in incentive programs. We encourage community agencies and organizations who are interested in partnering with farmers’ markets in their area to take advantage of this free information as well!


This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. USDA is an equal opportunity provider.