November 1st, 2017

Crossroads Farmers Market’s Biggest Fan

by Nate Charnas

Rosa Sanchez shows up at the Takoma Park, MD Crossroad Community Farmers Market about three hours before the market opens to help set up tents, and she makes it a point to never skip market day if she can help it. “The only time I missed one,” she explains, “I had a baby.”

Before she started working for Crossroads in 2009, though, Rosa wasn’t a frequent presence at her local farmers markets. She found the prices discouraging, and she had never been told that she could use her nutrition benefits to buy produce at the market. Rosa remembers thinking, “How can I afford these tomatoes? I cannot afford this apple. They look delicious, but they’re too expensive.” But her work at Crossroads opened up a whole new world for her and her family. Part of her job is to make sure Crossroads customers know that the market not only accepts WIC checks and Independence (EBT/SNAP) cards but matches these purchases as well. Rosa now shares her experience with as many people as possible, drawing on her own experience at the market by telling others that the matching program “is good for my family.”

Rosa already had experience doing SNAP outreach in Prince George’s County – knocking on doors, doing eligibility screenings, and generally helping friends and neighbors apply for food stamps. Unsurprisingly, she has continued this work to great effect at Crossroads. During the market’s nascent years, she and her coworkers would call on friends and family to come out and bolster the market’s customer counts. Over the years, these efforts have paid off: Crossroads has grown and developed a loyal community of shoppers, especially Latino families living nearby. They go to the market every week to shop with the farmers, enjoy pupusas for lunch, hear live music, and welcome new families to the market. Still, Rosa feels there is always more outreach for her to do. “People need to be more aware that at the farmers market we do accept food stamps,” she says, sharing her observation that there is a glut of unhealthy food in the neighborhoods surrounding the market.

Like other farmers market converts, Rosa has grown very attached to the food she is able to get at the Crossroad Farmers Market. “I became one of the farmers market’s I-buy-every-week shoppers…it’s the best product. It’s fresh, it’s local, it’s healthy, and it’s good. And it lasts longer than what you buy at Giant or another store,” she declares. Kale is one of the vegetables at the top of Rosa’s list. “I mix kale with my eggs, kale with salad, smoothies. I love kale…and now I’m making my salad with fresh apples, which I have never done before. I learned at the market. I didn’t know how to make beets either. Now I can make them raw, I can make them with salads. I love the market,” explains Rosa.

Rosa’s children also love the produce she brings home–especially the apples and tomatoes–and they often join her at the markets and make it a family affair. Her mother often accompanies her children on market outings, and her husband, who began as a volunteer at the market four years ago, has now begun selling there with Jose Montoya’s farm. Rosa cites the sense of belonging as one of the main reasons Crossroads is her favorite farmers market. “All of them are good, but this is my market. They call it the Latino market…Rosa’s market. I say ‘No, this is everybody’s market.’”

Crossroads Community Farmers Market (located on Anne St between University Blvd. and Hammond Ave.) is open Wednesdays, 11am to 3pm, May through December.

About the Author Nate Charnas

Nate Charnas is an AmeriCorps VISTA at MDFMA focusing on increasing benefits access for farmers market customers. He is originally from San Francisco and hopes the good people of Baltimore will accept all of his Giants clothing as a sign of solidarity with the Orioles.