Paying it forward

Ben Johnson, President and founder of Organic Trade Association member Bridges Organic Produce Inc., has chosen a way to make his company’s cost-share money do double-good.

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program, organic producers and handlers who have paid certification fees during a program year can apply for reimbursement of the eligible incurred costs, up to a maximum of $750 per year. Distributor Bridges Organic Produce qualifies for the maximum. However, although Johnson appreciates the program that is vital to many small growers and handlers, he explains, “We don’t need it financially.”

As a result, the company “passes it down the line where it can be put to better use.”

Bridges Organic Produce based in Portland, OR, donates its cost share reimbursement to the Woodstock Farmers Market in outer southeast Portland for its SNAP Match program. For the past two years, the farmers market had received a grant allowing it to provide a $10 dollar-to-dollar match to recipients eligible to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to purchase produce. The farmers market is continuing the program even with the ending of the grant and has sought additional sponsors to meet its matching goals.

“By donating our cost share reimbursement funds to this program, it is helping more families to buy produce and healthy foods while also supporting the small organic farmers who produce the food,” Johnson says, adding, “It fits in with the spirt of cost share and paying it forward.” This is the second year the company has participated.

Woodstock Farmers Market says its SNAP Match program helps nearly 800 individuals and families purchase healthy fruits and vegetables from local farmers each year. In 2017, the market brought in over 42,000 visitors, averaging about 2,000 people every Sunday.

On July 19, Woodstock Farmers market posted the following message on Facebook:

“Wow! We are feeling very humble and thankful this morning. Our friends at Bridges Organic Produce have generously offered to complete the funding of our SNAP matching campaign! We are now fully funded for the year. We are truly grateful to everyone that has helped us with our campaign. Thank you Bridges for helping us cross the finish line!” //