The Kennebunk Farmers’ Market, open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Garden Street Parking Lot, offers a diverse list of farm-fresh products. The Cannons at Noon Family Farm has been at the market for a few years now, and Lana Cannon-Dracup, one of the owners, said that she loves the community and dedication in Kennebunk. COURTESY PHOTO

KENNEBUNK — Steven Price, the Kennebunk Farmers’ Market manager, has always seen the market as a modern public square, where vendors and visitors can meet, chat and trade recipes, but there’s an elitist stigma attached that he’s working to remove.

The farmers’ market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 23, in the Garden Street Municipal Lot in Kennebunk, and while it’s been successful this year, Price said he wants to attract a larger demographic and make it a more affordable experience.

With the help of the town of Kennebunk and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, Price and the farmers’ market are working to help low-income families afford the fresh, organic and locally sourced products found at the market.

This is the first year the market is accepting SNAP cards, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and acts like a debit card for food stamp recipients.

“If you’re on food stamps, now you have SNAP,” Price said. “This is the first year that we’ve done it. The market has wanted to do this for a few years, and the town really wanted us to do this. We run your SNAP card and give you tokens, and you spend those tokens like cash around the market.”

In addition to accepting SNAP cards, Price said the market has also been distributing $5 welcome coupons at food pantries in Kennebunk.

“The commerce donated $500 and the market matched that,” he said. “They’ve distributed about 200 $5 coupons. People can use them for anything but alcohol products. Our goal is to get them to the market, give them a good experience and maybe it will spread through word of mouth.”

SNAP benefits will be matched by Maine Harvest Bucks at the market, Price added.

“For every dollar you spend at the market with SNAP, we match with Maine harvest bucks,” he said. “Those are donated by a nonprofit organization. Say you want to spend $20 at the market, and you’re on SNAP, and you have a $5 coupon. With matching harvest bucks, you get $45 to spend at the farmers’ market.”

Price said he’s has found other ways to donate, too. Recently, he discovered a small honor-system style food pantry on the side of the commerce building.

“It only has packaged goods in it, and when I realized they had that I said, ‘Let me go back to the market and see if the committee would be interested in donating,’” he said. “And they were all for it, so I went out and bought a 52-quart ice chest. When the market’s over, I go over and collect an ice chest full of produce. So we just started it, and when I checked two days ago, most of the produce was gone. So that’s the initiative we’re doing.”

Price, who has been working for the market since the middle of last season, said he’d also like to see some tourists wandering through the market.

“Historically, they’ve never marketed for tourists,” he said. “We have tens of thousands of tourists who come through Kennebunk and Kennebunkport during the summer. So one of the things I did last year—I created this card and distributed through hotels and cottages. And they’re being redistributed this year. We are trying to generate more tourist business.”

Vendors, Price said, have told him that there have been some new faces among the crowds.

The Kennebunk Farmer’s Market has vendors from all over Maine who support Price’s efforts, each with their own unique stories and products.

The vendors of Hussein’s Family Farm, based in Lewiston, came to the United States from Somalia, but they have been at the Kennebunk Farmers’ Market since 2008.

“We love it,” one of the family members said. “This is the best market.”

A more recent vendor, Julie DeFrancesco of Bending Birch Farm in Limington, which makes products from goats’ milk, said that she has been loving her first season at Kennebunk Farmers’ Market.

“I worked 28 years as a paralegal in Portland and was burnt out,” DeFrancesco said. “In 2017, we got a herd and started learning how to raise goats. We bought the whole herd!”

Francesco was offering free samples of fudge made by goat’s milk, one of the more unique products offered by the farm.

The Kennebunk Farmers’ Market requires that the vendors use Maine products, Price added.

“Our market is very regionally oriented,” he said. “To participate in our market, you have to demonstrate that all the ingredients come from Maine. Our bakers, they even buy their flour from Maine. It’s very Maine-focused.”

Despite the Maine focus and that it’s a small market, there is diverse offering of products, Price said.

“I think our diversity is really good and we have a really committed community,” he said. “We want the market to belong to the whole community. We don’t want it to be this elitist experience for people.”

— Catherine Bart can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9029.

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