OPINION | Barry Richard: Fund Fire Stations, Not Farmer’s Markets
Lets get something straight from the get go: I like farmers, I like poor people, and I like fruits and vegetables. What I don't like is big government spending my money to tell people what to eat. But, that's exactly what a federal U.S.D.A. grant to New Bedford is designed to do.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving the New Bedford Farmers Market $223,000 for a "robust" marketing campaign to tell people who receive SNAP benefits that eating carrots and apples is better than eating fried Twinkies. The grant will fund two part-time positions to spread the word to those who some believe are not intelligent enough to figure that out on their own. The money will also help local farmers to promote their products.
The project will be implemented by Coastal Foodshed which is taking over management of the local farmers market from Mass In Motion, a state-funded organization.
Coastal Foodshed founder Kim Ferreira says the grant money will allow the farmers market to "diversify our funding opportunities, and have the ability to expand the markets and allow them to grow." Part of that growth will be a new indoor winter market at the Times Square Building on Purchase Street. Who awarded that contract?
Ferreira says, "You can get a variety of proteins, like chicken, beef, fish, eggs." She says, "There's also specialty products like baked goods, lotions, jams. So we've done a lot of work there to diversify." With all due respect Kim, that's called a supermarket, and at last check, New Bedford had roughly 13 of them within a five-mile radius of downtown.
Federal dollars fuel federal jobs and in this case are being used to promote a particular sector of the economy. At a time when New Bedford is closing fire stations on a daily rotating basis, how about Washington sends us money to keep all of them open everyday? How about a quarter of a million for more police to prevent a ninth homicide this year?
Expanding another useless federal bureaucracy is in no one's best interest and is a waste of money. Besides, I think people are smart enough to make their own decisions about what to eat without he government's advice. And let the farmers organize their own markets.
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.