Greenmarket Farmers and Customers Wary of Cuts

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:04

After $5 billion cut from food stamps program nationwide, farmers' market customers will have to cut back

The stereotypical farmers' market customer may be thought of as an upper class, vegan yoga instructor looking for some kale and grass-fed beef. But the reality may surprise you.

In 2012, GrowNYC GreenMarkets counted over $800,000 in sales from Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) customers, or customers that receive credit from the SNAP program, previously known as food stamps. And Union Square Market had the most amount of EBT profits: over $241,000.

So what happens when the government makes significant cuts nationwide to people who rely on these food stamps to eat? It comes out to about $11 less a month for an individual, and a $36 cutback for a family of four. That may not sound like much, but since the cuts went into effect on November 1, Union Square greenmarket customers are already planning ahead.

"Why not take $11 off Donald Trump's salary instead of someone who needs it?" said Laurie J., who lives in Chelsea and uses EBT to shop in the Union Square Farmer's Market. Laurie was there to buy spinach because some of the stands sell a bag for $2, which won't cut into her budget too much. "I go here three times a month, but of course I'll be spending less now. That money adds up."

Many of the farmers, like Matt Igoe from Hudson Valley Duck Farm, say that they haven't felt the effects yet of these cutbacks. He said that he believes he will see an impact in the coming weeks and months. People won't stop coming to farmer's markets, he said, but there will be an overall impact. Duck, he said, is a luxury item, so people might not want to pay for it with 11 dollars less in the bank.

"These people are already in the red, so it's 11 dollars more in the negative for them," said Igoe. "It's a shame because this program has put so much stimulus into New York's economy."

And it's not just putting money into New York's economy. According to GrowNYC, some farmers see over 50 percent of their profits from EBT users, mostly those who sell the basics like fruits, vegetables and bread.

"I really think there's been about a 25 percent decrease in EBT profits," said Ben Pasternack from Our Daily Bread. "Today for instance, it's a lot thinner than usual. We've only been getting about 60 bucks a day."

Elderly EBT users really feel the impact, especially if they live alone.

"I can't believe they've deducted $11 when I was barely making anything to begin with," said Paul Georges, 89, a Union Square Market customer from New Jersey. "I get a $20 greenmarket coupon as a senior. I don't know what I'm going to buy now, but it's got to be something soft. I have to be more frugal now."