Iowa’s farmers markets will soon have an added feature for the convenience of their shoppers — terminals that can swipe your plastic card. A pilot project involving the Department of Human Services and Iowa Farm Bureau will let credit-card terminals be put into farmers markets, to make it easier for customers including those who get food assistance. D.H.S. Director Kevin Concannon explains those clients already use a fund-transfer card, called “the Iowa Card,” to get their groceries. The agency’s issued about 8 portable electronic devices that will let the farmers sell their goods to people with the Iowa Card, a first for the state and possibly the whole country. Farmers markets often don’t have electricity or phone connections, and Concannon says the vendors are open to the new portable terminals to use in making sales. Concannon says the D.H.S. hopes the system will encourage Iowa Card recipients to buy healthy fresh food at the state’s markets, adding that more than 200-thousand Iowans now get benefits through the food assistance program. The system was rolled out for the first time at this weekend’s Des Moines Farmers Market. Though it starts in Des Moines, the agency hopes by next month to begin the program in the Cedar Rapids area, and later to expand to Council Bluffs or the Red Oak area. Concannon says the system will use wireless technology. Just like you see people with portable notebook computers that use “wi-fi” to operate without a wire connection, these terminals use the technology to process purchases using the Iowa Card and also a Visa or MasterCard. Dave Miller with the Iowa Farm Bureau says his group’s helping make the new technology user-friendly for both buyers and sellers. Miller says while D.H.S.has a grant to provide “the gadgets,” there are overhead costs like bank fees for using the plastic cards. Farm Bureau will cover those expenses to make the new process “seamless,” and ensure farmers-market sellers don’t have to pay extra fees as they make sales to people using the benefits card or credit cards. Miller says farmers and consumers in Iowa benefit from having a lot of markets where producers sell fresh food directly to consumers. California leads in the number of farmers markets, but he says Iowa’s second, with about 185 markets around the state. Miller is Director of Research and Commodity Services for the Iowa Farm Bureau.
You are here: / / Farmers markets to try terminals for DHS food cards