WORTHINGTON -- The Downtown Farmers Market in Worthington will begin offering customers a new way to pay for their fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, jellies, meat and eggs when it debuts a card reader kiosk at Tuesday’s market.

The card reader will make it possible for individuals to purchase tokens with credit or debit cards, EBT cards and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards. The tokens are then used to purchase items from farmer’s market vendors.

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Nobles County Community Wellness Partners, University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed, Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council and Western Community Action collaborated to get the card reader for the farmer’s market, with assistance also from the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and First State Bank Southwest.

Worthington’s downtown farmer’s market is among the first in southwest Minnesota to become a SNAP-eligible farmer’s market, said Margaret Palan of Western Community Action in Marshall. Palan said the card readers are being introduced at farmers markets in Marshall and Redwood Falls this summer as well.

“Last fall we went around and talked to all of the vendors individually, informally, and asked about bringing this to Worthington,” said Christine Bullerman, Community Wellness Partners coordinator. With the ease of having one centralized machine and a volunteer to run it, the vendors were interested in proceeding.

Bullerman and Palan secured funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Farmers Market Coalition for the card reader.

“We anticipate this will bring more customers to the farmer’s market,” Bullerman said. “It’s really a win-win. It’s a benefit to the people on the SNAP program who are struggling to afford food in general.”

Shoppers with EBT cards will be able to double, or even triple, their buying power thanks to programs that offer a $10 match per week if they shop the farmer’s market. An additional $10 of one-time tokens is offered if they participate in a SNAP-Ed sponsored tour of the farmers market through the U of M Extension program.

“This encourages them to purchase fresh and local health foods,” Bullerman said, adding that the money may be spent on anything edible offered at the market. “We really are focused on increasing access and availability of healthy foods.”

“This will also help people who don’t carry cash on them (to the market),” added Leticia Rodriguez, SNAP-Ed educator.

Customers with debit or credit cards may purchase tokens in $5 increments. If they don’t spend them all in one visit, they can bring them back to spend at a future visit to the farmers market. Cash or checks will continue to be accepted as well.

This Tuesday’s downtown farmers market will be set up on 10th Street, between Second and Third avenues, in conjunction with Cruisin’ Downtown Worthington. The market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. that night and each Tuesday night.

“I would encourage people to stop down and check it out,” Palan said. “Meet your friends at the market and shop local.”

There are plans to add card readers to farmers markets in Jackson and Cottonwood counties next year, and Pipestone will have a card reader available near the end of the farmers market season this year.