Bellingham Farmers Market coordinator and operations manager, Morgan Henry Kerr’s creativity nourished this program into fruition. She wanted those who are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and use Electronic Benefits Transfer to win prizes from vendors in the market.
On Oct. 23 The Golden Ticket program started, allowing those who use EBT to participate and win some of the popular items sold at the farmers market while also receiving tokens to use at the market.
SNAP benefits, previously known as Food Stamps, with the use of EBT are exchangeable for tokens used for cash at the market.
“We had one of our vendors ice dye 10 of our farmers market totes so it’s a limited edition, specially by Harold collection of our totes,” Henry Kerr said.
The prizes are inside these tote bags, and folks with EBT are the only ones eligible to receive tote bags that could contain the Golden Ticket. Inside the bags, there will be the number of tokens that are requested and potentially a Golden Ticket.
Henry Kerr felt the Willy Wonka nostalgia would be a fun way to provide a gift to those using EBT.
Along with the specialty tote bag, winners will receive a jar of honey, CBD bath bombs, water bottles, art, jewelry, soaps, stickers, candles and hot sauces from local vendors.
“Certainly we could do a scavenger hunt, or something like that,” Henry Kerr said. “But doing something unexpected and creating a delightful surprise, like the Golden Ticket, is fun to bring to the market.”
Only 20 out of 70 vendors have opted in to participate in the program.
Vendors such as McFall Beeyard, a local honey distributor, donated four jars of honey to the Golden Ticket Program. Ted McFall, farm owner and operator, said they are located in Custer, Washington, where some of their bee colonies exist.
“Whenever a business is having a giveaway or trying to support a charity, we try to give what we can,” McFall said.
Miranda Lupas, a Western Washington University student, goes to the farmers market as a meetup spot with their friends and to learn more about their community and locally sourced food.
“It’s a good way to bring community and bring healthier food options that are from local farms,” Lupas said.
They described their experience meeting owners of 11th Hour Tea & Coffee Bar at a table at the market. Lupas learned more about their business and the types of drinks they sold through that exposure.
“Every time I go there, there are new things I’ve never seen before that aren’t at Fred Meyer or any big stores like that,” they said.
The market is almost 30 years old, and with the modified COVID-19 setup, it is thriving with 70 steady vendors.
Henry Kerr wants to take the market down to its core values and make it an essential place for people to buy food.
“Farmers markets are a lot of things for a lot of people,” she said. “[I can] see how essential it is for people’s literal food access, and since all these vendors are from Skagit and Whatcom County, all the money is impacting our local economy specifically.”
The Golden Ticket Program will go on every other week and four tickets in total will be given away by the end of the season. The Bellingham Farmers Market will continue at Depot Market Square every Saturday until it closes on Dec.18, 2021.