It’s not Slow Food in the Tetons tipping options. These are buyers options for a discount.
“It’s not just for someone who is food insecure,” said Scott Steen, executive director of Slow Food in the Tetons, sitting on a cooler as shoppers crowded around the Slow Farm stand. Food last Thursday. “This is for anyone who has ever found cost to be a barrier to buying local, which is most people.”
The Slow Food in the Tetons discount program is new this year, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Hughes Charitable Foundation, the philanthropy of Molly and B. Wayne Hughes Jr. It lets people name their prize when they shop in person with Slow Food in the Tetons or at the nonprofit’s online marketplace. The idea is to give people better access to local produce, which is usually a more nutritious option than vegetables from Jackson’s grocery stores, but usually comes with a supplement.
“It’s the first of its kind that I’ve heard encouraging people to come and buy and eat local produce,” Travis Goodman said of the program as he shopped Thursday afternoon. “It’s fucked up.”
Molly Hughes, executive director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation, told the News&Guide that she and her husband wanted to support the program because farmers’ markets are “not affordable for everyone”.
“Although I think it’s the best food you can get,” Hughes said.
Hughes said she’s comfortable supporting the program with no requirements or income thresholds because she doesn’t want to “ostracize anybody, get people on a list or in a special line “.
“In this community, most people struggle,” Hughes said. “There’s a kind of dignity that comes from not having to show income to get products.”
In 2021, farmers sold $140,000 worth of local produce through the Slow Food farm stand.
Slow Food intends to sell the same amount of food this year, if not more, but the subsidy means customers won’t be responsible for the full $140,000, Steen said. Instead, the grant will cover between $40,000 and $50,000 of that total — part of the donation is for program administration and marketing but doesn’t pay for staff salaries, Steen said — clients paying the balance of whatever is sold.
So far, people have taken less advantage of the online option than the discount at the farm stand, with just eight people using the online discount the week of July 18. In contrast, 137 people used the discount at the farm stand on July 21 and 22, with 55 people getting a 10% discount, 51 people getting a 25% discount, and 27 people getting a discount. by 50%. Seventy-eight shoppers opted for no discount, according to Slow Food data.
“The challenge is trying to get people to use it,” Steen said.
Steen and other Slow Food Farm Stand employees said some customers were a little hesitant when told about the program. The buyers asked if they had to show documents, which they don’t. And some, like Elise Stiegler, who was picking up goods from farm stands on Thursday with her daughter, Lisl Ostler, said they didn’t feel like they needed the discount.
“I will give all my money to the farm stand, compared to other places,” Stiegler said. “But hopefully the right people will come to use it who might not come to a farm stand.”
Steen said about $10,000 of the $50,000 grant has been used so far, three weeks into it. There are eight weeks left in the farm stand season, including opening this Thursday and Friday. Steen and other employees said demand was slowly growing. Farm stand worker Becca Bredehoft said when the stand opened on Thursday, a line stretched around the stand for about two hours. Some people were there because they had heard about the program. Other people found out when they left.
“It’s really fun to watch people’s brains go, ‘What? Oh wow? Can you get a discount on this food? Like all this? Can I go get more?'” Bredehoft said.
His response when that happens: “Yeah, totally.”
In the past, Bredehoft worked for Canewater Farm, an organic farm in Teton Valley, Idaho, which sells its produce at the Slow Food Farm stand. When Bredehoft explains the rebate program to suspicious customers, she explains to people who don’t think they deserve a rebate that it helps producers.
“If they buy more here, they buy more food, that helps farmers, and farmers always get full price,” Bredehoft said.
This, she said, helps people move from seeing the program as a cutback to thinking of it as a way to increase the amount of food they buy from local producers.
Steen argued that it was a local alternative to the billions of dollars in subsidies the US government provides to staple crop farmers through the Farm Bill. These subsidies generally don’t reach the type of small farmers who sell their produce through Slow Food in the Tetons.
“If they’re totally wiped out, they’re still making money,” Steen said of factory farming. “It doesn’t exist for small farmers – or it exists in a much more restricted way. There are some federal grants but they are impossible to get and it’s a huge burden to apply for because it’s a crazy amount of paperwork.
The grant allows farmers to charge for what they need, Slow Food to do the same – profit margins from farm stands did not cover the $163,000 operating cost in 2021 – and, ideally, people of all incomes , origins and familiarity with small-scale agriculture. to buy locally produced food.
“We want everyone to have equal access to good, clean and fair food,” Steen said.
Hughes said she hadn’t heard Steen link subsidies to supporting farmers. But it got her thinking about how the program could be scaled statewide as the Hughes Charitable Foundation works with Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon and the Wyoming Hunger Initiative to provide food affordable to Wyoming residents.
“It got me thinking about how we could expand this statewide, whether it’s the farmers market or engaging growers and ranchers across the state to help to feed our hungry,” Hughes said.
Customers like Goodman, the co-owner of Jackson Hole Still Works, hope the program will draw more people to the local farm stand, where he is a frequent traveler. Like Stiegler, Goodman said he usually doesn’t need a discount. But he took advantage of the program a few times when he was “in trouble” financially.
“Hopefully they see the benefits of more people coming in more often because of it,” Goodman said.
The food, Goodman said, is “better than you can get at any other store,” so he’s willing to pay the full cost. But, said Goodman, it can get expensive and it’s fine to pay what he can when he needs a break.
When the foundation’s money runs out, Steen said he hopes to find more money to continue the program.
“If we can prove the effectiveness of this and get people excited about people coming to the farm who wouldn’t normally come because it’s unaffordable,” he said, “then I think we have a good record.”
Hughes, for his part, has not directly committed to future funding.
But she said her family’s foundation tended to fund projects for three years and then take a break.
“We’ll take a look at it and see how successful they’ve been,” Hughes said of the Slow Food cut. “But, again, we love our partnership with Slow Food in the Tetons and we want to do more with them.”