USDA keeps Reedley farmers market rolling

Sierra Kings Health Care District secures USDA grant to keep Reedley College Farmers Market up and running through September 2026

Sierra Kings Health Care District Board Members Jim Fixel (left) and Bruce Hunter (right) discuss agenda topics. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published March 6, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – Due to a windfall from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Reedley Wellness Farmer’s Market – Reedley College Farmer’s Market – will continue for at least the next two years.

Sierra Kings Health Care District (SKHCD) CEO Chinayera Black-Hardaman informed the district’s board at its Feb. 27 meeting that the USDA approved the district’s 2023 grant application. With that approval, the district was awarded a grant in the amount of $114,900 for six markets to take place from Oct. 1, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2026.

The only action required of the board was to accept the grant and approve three subcontracts.

“This is a good item,” Black-Hardaman said. “This is actually incoming money. For your budget, you never want unanticipated expenditures, but you always welcome unanticipated revenues.”

Black-Hardaman said the grant was the result of the past three successful seasons of the market, which were funded by SKHCD. The district allocated $40,000 annually for the market. According to Black-Hardaman, the USDA took notice.

“You offered seed money to demonstrate to the community that it was feasible and it could be successful,” she said. “We presented that to a larger funder (USDA), with deeper pockets, who said, ‘We like what you did and we’re willing to help sustain it.’ That’s when grant money really comes full circle. So, congratulations.”

Board member Jim Fixel said, “So, this is self-funding now. The farmer’s market is self-funding.”

“It’s self-sustainable, and that’s a really good point,” said Black-Hardaman.

According to Black-Hardaman, $108,000 was earmarked for three subcontractors – Reedley College, Fitness Quest Health Club and the Reedley Greater Chamber of Commerce. Reedley College will receive $87,000 over three years to implement and manage the six markets – spring and fall – annually. The next market starts April 4 and runs through June 6 on Thursday evenings. Each market runs for 10 weeks.

Speaking of the college, Black-Hardaman said, “They are the market managers. They do the heavy lifting.”

The board approved allocating $15,000 to Fitness Quest. Black-Hardaman said the USDA grant application required fitness activities at each market. Fitness Quest will offer onsite fitness classes and similar demonstrations.

Black-Hardaman said the chamber of commerce is a new edition to the enterprise. When SKHCD wrote its grant application, Black-Hardaman included an element for community outreach. The chamber will use its formidable social media skills to publicize the markets and to reach underserved communities.

“They’ll bring in more of the public,” she said. “From the general population as well as the underserved populations.”

The Chamber will receive $2,000 each year to promote the market.

Black-Hardaman said the board will receive $6,100 from the grant. She said the USDA requires that its prime contractors – SKHCD in this case – attend a mandatory USDA conference. Approximately $1,500 of the Board’s budget will be allocated for travel. The remaining grant money – $4,600 – will be used to cover direct and indirect administrative costs.

“The cost of doing business, of managing the contract,” said Black-Hardaman.

Darren Fraser