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MTSU Helps Celebrate Grow Healthy Rutherford

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MTSU’s role in a collaboration that is providing opportunities for low-income residents and fixed-income senior citizens to eat healthier has proven to be an instant success.

Farmers and consumers say the newly implemented EBT, debit- or credit-card payment method is a hit at the Rutherford County Farmers’ Market. Officials from partnering organizations will share the news later this week.

“This is going wonderfully. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for years,” said

Janie Becker, farmers’ market manager. “The producers are seeing a lot of economic impact. They’ve been pleased since the first day (May 11). They are seeing sales they wouldn’t have seen before.”

“The response from EBT customers has been especially rewarding,” Becker added. “They came in the first day saying they always wanted to buy produce from local farmers, but there was nowhere to buy it (with EBT cards). Being the first farmers’ market in the county to accept EBT (payments) has been worth the effort.”

MTSU’s community partnership with the UT/TSU Extension-operated Rutherford County Farmers’ Market will celebrate the kickoff to the “Grow Healthy Rutherford Initiative.” It will be held during an open house Friday, June 15, from 9 until 10 a.m. at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center, 315 John R. Rice Blvd., in Murfreesboro.

Dr. Warren Gill, MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience director, and Anthony Tuggle, UT Extension director for Rutherford County, officially will welcome everyone and explain the “Grow Healthy Rutherford Initiative” at 9:30. The public is invited. Rutherford County Mayor and MTSU alumnus Ernest Burgess (’61) is expected to attend.

Through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Promotion Program grant, MTSU officials have been able to implement a system that lets farmers’ market customers make EBT, credit and debit payments to obtain tokens to make their purchases.

In usually less than a week’s time, MTSU Accounting Services reimburses the farmers with payment by either direct deposit or check.

Ben Jones, assistant director in MTSU Accounting Services, said his office “is excited to be part of it” and credits Dr. Justin Gardner, an agribusiness and agriscience professor, for spearheading “a great program. He has done a great job. The farmers were used to a cash transaction. We try to turn around these (card) transactions as quickly as we can so they can get their payments as quickly as possible.”

MTSU senior ag-education major Gabby Starr of Hendersonville, Tenn., junior ag-business major Alvin Jensen of Ashland City, Tenn., and senior plant-and-soil-science major Daniel Messick of Shelbyville, Tenn., are serving as farmers’ market interns.

Gardner said there “are no geographical restrictions” attached to the EBT, debit or credit payment option. Therefore, people from neighboring Cannon, Bedford, Wilson, Davidson, Williamson and Maury counties, and others, also are welcome.

Becker said the grant also is helping make possible a free seasonal eating demonstration at 10 a.m. on the last Tuesday of each month through Oct. 30.

The Rutherford County Farmers’ Market is open from 7 a.m. until noon each Tuesday and Friday until the end of October. Market officials again will add an extended season on Sundays from 1 until 4 p.m. from Nov. 4 through Dec. 16. For more information, call Rutherford County Extension at 615-898-7710.

On campus, the Student Farmers Market operates every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. until mid-August. For more information, call 615-898-2523 or 615-494-8996.