The squeeze is on

Newport Farmers Market shows what to do when life hands you lemons

Story & photos by Jenni Remillard

For the TODAY

It’s one of those rare days in Newport. The sun is out, the breeze is minimal, and it’s even a Saturday. So what better way to spend your morning than by strolling the Newport Farmers Market, where you’ll find everything from soaps, jewelry and other crafts, to all sorts of farm products like veggies, flowers and organic meats. There are even bakeries and food carts if you find yourself needing a nibble while you are looking for that perfect bunch of carrots. Of course, on such a nice, warm day, the best thing might just be a refreshing glass of lemonade. If so, the market has a booth that can help you out. In fact, that’s all they sell. But this is some special lemonade. At $2.50 a glass, the proceeds from this lemonade stand go to helping more Lincoln County residents take advantage of all the market has to offer. Welcome to The Lemonade Project.

The project is a social enterprise sponsored by the Newport Farmers Market and the Lincoln County Foods Group, a chapter of the Ten Rivers Food Web. Ten Rivers partners with farmers markets in Lincoln, Benton and Linn counties for “That’s My Farmer,” and incentive project for people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. The goal of the program is to make local food more affordable to low income families and to encourage them to use more fruits and vegetables. The program provides matching funds of up to $6 a week when SNAP participants use their card to purchase tokens to use at the market, adding up to $24 extra buying power each month. So where do those matching funds come from? That’s where The Lemonade Project comes in.

Katie McNeil of Pacific Sourdough developed The Lemonade Project concept, but stresses that it is a team of people that make it happen every week. “We wanted a funding source that would provide an ongoing source of funds rather than a onetime fundraiser,” she said. So far, it’s been working. For the past two years, the program has exceeded $4,000 in gross sales. Between 2011 and 2012, there has been a 68-percent increase in SNAP transactions at the market. The project is run completely by volunteers so after the costs of supplies, all the money raised goes to the SNAP matching funds. McNeil makes the sugar syrup at Pacific Sourdough; Carrie Corson, the farmers market manager, and her assistant haul the equipment and set up and tear down the booth every Saturday; and Bonnie Good does the volunteer coordinating and purchases supplies. Ten Rivers Food Web manages the finances.

Besides the dedicated volunteers who run the program, there are also many familiar faces among the customers. Good says that there are many repeat customers every week. Often customers will round up or add in an extra donation for their lemonade. Extra donations are marked with bell ringing and cheering. On an average week, the project sells 84 cups a day. On a nice hot day, they have been known to sell more than 250 cups.

There is another benefit to The Lemonade Project and that is to the farmers. Those matching funds SNAP participants receive are then spent at the market, going directly back to the farmers. As McNeil puts it, “it’s a win, win, win.” Customers get tasty lemonade, SNAP participants get extra tokens to help purchase healthy food, and the farmers get more business.

In fact, there could be one more win in there as well. The volunteers who staff The Lemonade Project booth (also known as The Squeeze Team) get to help out the community and have a great time doing it. This particular Saturday finds Betsy Henderson and Michelle and Dan Amburg along with the ever-present Bonnie Good, squeezing and chatting away. Henderson and the Amburgs are on the United Way board and have dedicated this Saturday to serving up lemonade. Good says there are many different volunteers from many organizations as well as teen volunteers. Whoever thought lemons could do so much for a community.

To get involved, contact Market Manager Carrie Corson via the market’s website, www.newportfarmersmarket.org.

What: Newport Farmers Market

Where: Newport City Hall, Hwy. 101 at Angle Street

When: Saturdays, 9 am-1 pm

FMI: www.newportfarmersmarket.org

 

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