Dessie Buchanan stands in front of a mural in downtown Wilmington, Ohio that depicts an idyllic farmers market scene. The Clinton County Farmers Market is fittingly held in the parking lot in front of the mural, where Buchanan can be found on Saturdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer and spring. Buchanan is an AmeriCorps* VISTA volunteer tasked with making the farmers market more accessible to the low-income population here. This year, the market will accept food stamps and other forms of food assistance benefits in an effort to increase fresh food access to the broader population.
“When you look at the numbers of local people on food assistance, in 2007 there were around 2,000 of them in Clinton County,” Buchanan said. “This year, there are more than 8,000. Obviously the county is now more dependent on food assistance. We wanted to give those people the option to have fresh, locally grown food, while at the same time help local farmers and keep the food assistance dollars here.”
The unemployment rate in Clinton County is the second highest in the state at 13.1 percent, four points higher than the national average. “Nationally, something like .008 percent of food assistance dollars is spent at farmers markets. We want to get at least one percent of those local food assistance dollars to be spent at the farmers market,” she said. “That’s our goal.”
Agriculture remains the biggest contributor to the regional economy in Clinton County, Ohio. This series highlights actors in the county’s local food economy, from farmers and restaurant owners to community gardeners and food pantry directors.
The photographer, John Cropper, is a Clinton County native, a journalist at the Wilmington News Journal and a fledgling gardener. He came to CoLab Radio via Energize Clinton County, which “grew out of a citizen movement to broaden participation in economic development, and regain control of our local economy.”