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Farmers markets battle inflation in Schuylkill County

Farmers markets have long been a source of locally produced fruits and vegetables, often available at lower prices, but growing inflation means growing problems.

TAMAQUA, Pa. — The people of Schuylkill County and surrounding areas have come to know the weekly Hometown Farmers Market in Rush Township as a place to find deals on colorful produce.

"Good prices, produce is good," said Bob Gaffney of Freeland. "You get special deals down here. You always find something, you know."

While the stands still consistently beat the prices at the grocery store, farmers and sellers are feeling the effects of record inflation. 

Billy Webber from Bill's Produce said fuel prices have been a killer.

"Something like cherries, coming from the other side of the country, it cost you a dollar a pound just to get them here," Webbers said. "That's before I sell them."

Though they've tried to hold off, Webber said prices at his family's stand have gone up. 

"We work on thin margins, to begin with, you know," Webbers said. "It's gotta get passed on somewhere."

Jared Stewart from Kenny Stehr & Sons said some farmers can get around raising prices this time of year, relying on their own crops instead of sourcing them from elsewhere, but that doesn't solve every problem.

"We've gotta run tractors, we've gotta pay for fertilizer, so it all adds up," Stewart said.

While stand operators tell us it's still been very busy, they say each customer is picking up far less produce.

Many more are turning to government assistance programs.

"There's a lot more of the farmer's checks, the FMNP vouchers earlier in the year," Stewart said. "Usually, people wait until we have a lot more homegrown stuff in, but a lot of people are using them a lot earlier than usual."

You may qualify for Pennsylvania's Farmers Market Nutrition Programs and could take home these healthy foods for free. 

You can find more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture webpage.

Check out WNEP's YouTube channel.

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