As reported today in the Seattle Times and yesterday by Rebekah Denn on Eat All About It, Cascade Harvest Coalition is launching a new program to try and expand the number of customers at local farmers markets. Over the next two months, $2 "Fresh Bucks" coupons, which can be spent just like cash, can be redeemed at the Phinney Farmers Market, as well as markets in Anacortes and Shelton. Customers using the Fresh Bucks will be asked questions about their shopping patterns as part of Cascade's mission to "address and overcome the triggers that are putting a ceiling on the kinds and numbers of consumers who look for and buy locally grown foods."
Well, here's one possible trigger: The coupons are being distributed at retailers and businesses that have relationships with the markets which, according to Denn, include Makeda Coffee and Whole Life Yoga on Phinney. While the coupons may draw in some new latte-sipping, stretching enthusiasts, they're not likely to bring in any different kinds of consumers. If farmers markets are serious about truly growing and diversifying a loyal customer base, they might do well to consider making coupons available at places like Solid Ground's Operation Frontline classes, which teach nutrition to people at risk of hunger and malnutrition or to families on WIC who, as of now, can't purchase fresh vegetables with assistance. This way, they'd be making it easier for people with more than just a casual interest in eating well and saving money to shop at farmers markets.