October 1, 2020
Fair Farms Partner Highlight : Good Dog Farm
Good Dog Farm is a 5 acre sustainable vegetable farm located in Parkton, MD. Founded in 2016 by Joanna Winkler and Bryan Alexander, Good Dog Farm supplies locally grown and certified USDA Organic food to Baltimore area residents. They’re currently in peak tomato season, sometimes bringing in close to 600lbs of tomatoes a day. They have begun planting fall crops, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and beets, and their winter squash should be harvested soon!
Fair Farms spoke with owner Joanna Winkler about Good Dog Farm’s choice to accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a form of payment for their community supported agriculture (CSA) program. It has been common for vendors at farmers’ markets to accept SNAP but now the program is changing to meet the needs of farmers who are doing more sales via CSAs and home deliveries.
When the pandemic began, Good Dog Farm made the decision to sell their produce solely through their CSA and home deliveries for the season. Given the overwhelming numbers of people in the Baltimore area experiencing financial insecurity, it has always been part of the farm’s mission to create a base of local consumers who can affordably eat locally grown food. To meet the needs of these customers, Good Dog Farm offers customizable CSA boxes. For customers using SNAP as payment, this customization makes the CSA more accessible. For Joanna, the SNAP vendor application was easy enough to fill out – she had previously worked for the Baltimore Food Initiative, and was familiar with helping SNAP recipients update their information. Joanna mentioned that there’s a help line available for farmers and non-traditional applicants looking to apply as a vendor, and that the turnaround time is very quick. Good Dog Farm also received a grant through the state Department of Social Services covering the cost of the SNAP processing software and mobile app. A few of the CSA members have begun to take advantage of the program, and Good Dog Farm hopes to see more participation in the future.
There will be more of an opportunity for farmers’ market patrons to use this program in the coming year, as several farmers have expressed interest in accepting SNAP at markets in the Baltimore area. In other parts of the state, some farmers already have begun to accept SNAP as a method of payment for their produce, and even for their CSA’s. The recently reinstated Maryland Market Money program is also available for shoppers. The Maryland Market Money program was owned by the Maryland Farmers Market Association until they disbanded in June of 2020. The program was acquired in June 2020 by the Southern MD Agricultural Development Commission and will continue to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for purchases made using SNAP at select farmers’ markets. The Fair Farms campaign advocated for the establishment and funding of this program.
Prior to the pandemic, Good Dog Farm had diversified their sales outlets which made it easy for them to shift their focus from farmers’ market sales to their customizable CSA. They also supply produce to Chesapeake Farm to Table, which connects farmers to local restaurants so they can have their products included on the menu.
Wondering how you can help to support local farms such as Good Dog Farm through this pandemic and in the future? Try to make a habit of stopping at a farmers’ market at least once a week, not just once a season. Buy a CSA share. Some offer flexible delivery schedules to meet your needs. Buying from a local farmer means you are supporting your own community!
Good Dog Farm owner Joanna says “You have to interrogate your own personal supply chain. Ask yourself, ‘Where can I get this locally?’ Local food may not be everyone’s top priority, but everyone can integrate it into their buying habits – there’s so many ways to do it now.”
There are many other ways that you can support local farmers. Follow the Fair Farms Campaign on social media for up-to-date news, stories and profiles about local, sustainable farms in Maryland. You can also take the Fair Farms Pledge to commit to supporting the farming community year-round.