Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Greening - Clarifying Using "Food Stamps" for Plants

Dear Folks,

In my eagerness to get the word out on those qualifying for the food stamp program -- now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (which is administered by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service) -- I may have confused you readers about who and what qualifies for the programs.

I was trying to keep all the abbreviations to a minimum but unfortunately some important distinctions got lost.

The SNAP recipients are given a debit-type card now a-days instead of the old coupons, and the card is an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) which can be used through participating farmers markets, vendors and retailers who accept them. This card can be used to purchase qualifying food, food plants and seeds to grown food plants.

All farmers markets, vendors and retailers (including plant nurseries) who want to accept SNAP have to apply to the program to be able to accept the EBT card (with modern POS systems the "button" for EBT may be on the system but this does not mean it is "activated" - the retailer has to be admitted to the SNAP program by the administering agency).

WIC (Women, Infants and Children) coupons DO NOT qualify to purchase food plants or seeds for food Plants. A program for Seniors called Food Plus, is similar in scope. WIC and Food Plus recipients can purchase locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers markets in Arizona under the AzDES administered Farmers Market Nutrition Program - FMNP.

Recipients of FMNP may also qualify for the SNAP. Because of the nature of the various support programs, recipients of one program may qualify for other programs based on income and need.

More information on programs and who qualifies is here: This is a site run by Arizona Community Action Association and these folks can help as they work closely with AzDES.

This page on the USDA site has eligible and non-eligible products.

My special thanks to Cindy Gentry of Food Connection for helping me get the correct information into your hands.

And a few final words in support of these programs -- I can't help but think that anyone who can garden achieves benefits too numerous to count, so any assistance that can be lent by the community or a municipality is a support OF and FOR the community, not just the individual recipients - be sure to click on the Food Connection link and read the whole home page - I think it says a lot.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Edible Landscaping News Service Launched

Dear Folks,

I now have my new service up and running.

You can click this link and read the archive notice dated July 28th for all the information. There is no obligation to learn about the service and I'm offering a special 'charter' member rate of 30% off the annual subscription price.

After many years of writing about and receiving questions on how to successfully grow edibles in the desert, I realized most people need a simple reminder system, where they do not have go and look it up. "Edible Landscaping Success in the Desert Southwest" newsletter is it! Several times a month you will receive notices of what to plant and when, and also when to harvest. Included will be detailed information, tips and recipes. The service is $21 per year, but for 'charter' members their subscription will be just $15 if you sign up before September 30th.

For gardeners I think this will be a great resource because I am going to give you the benefit of my expertise, failures and research,.so you do not have to look it up.

Oh and if you would not personally use the service, you can give it as a gift to someone, who can. Just email to:

catherine at

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greening -- Practical Ecnomy - The Home Garden

Dear Folks,

"Practical Economy" is the term I like to apply to growing your own edibles either by yourself or in conjunction with neighbors for your own "neighborhood community garden."

Who does not need 'practical economy' now - if you do not know someone who was downsized, reduced to a restricted income, or struggling to raise a family on low wages, you are very, very lucky.

I just learned about the extent of the food and nutrition program or Nutrition Assistance (formerly called food stamps) for those who qualify for the EBT card version (this is a debit-type card) of the food purchasing supplement. For those who qualify (can include seniors, working 'poor', disabled, unemployed, and other limited/low-income folks) the EBT - where accepted can be used to purchase not only food, but also seeds and plants to grow your own food at your home! How neat is that! See the government site here for information and what is covered by the EBT.

So what retailers will accept the EBT card? Well that is an interesting question posed to me by a reader, a single mother raising children on her limited salary. So I went searching and asking questions of not only the Mesa Farmers Market where I sell plants, cuttings and seeds, but I also started to inquire around the valley.

Here is the basic information. If your local farmers market and/or the individual farmers and food producers accept the EBT then you can purchase food plants and seeds for food plants from them.

Click here to find markets in Arizona and look for the words "foods stamps" under the Market Name. Currently the ability to purchase plants and seeds is NOT available to those receiving only WIC supplements - I understand that is supposed to be reviewed by the government sometime in the future.

How about plant nurseries?

Jay Harper at Harper Nurseries and Landscaping - one of the valley's oldest family-owned (3 generations), locally run nurseries, told me no one has asked as of yet, but he is pretty sure their systems will accept the EBT card for food plant and food seed purchases. Since each retailer or group (like the farmers markets) have to apply to be able to accept EBT, not everyone who sells plants and seeds may be able to take the EBT card. Check with your neighborhood retailer.

I am getting this information out in hopes that all local retailers of food plants and seed for food plants will consider becoming qualified to accept EBT. Instead of grass-roots we can call this a "food-roots" effort. Even if you personally do not need EBT, nor know anyone who does, this is about helping as many people as possible grow some of their own food -- Practical Economy for now and in the future.

I am working on seeking out other possible sources for those wishing to use some of their EBT supplement to garden with - the potential bounty and food savings of a cared-for-food garden far exceeds the cost of seeds and some plants, a huge potential that should be considered by any one, but particularly by those living on fixed or limited incomes.

Kimber Lanning the founder and president of LocalFirstAZ is excited about this idea and is going to get the word out to members. Click here to go to LFA for information on any product or service you need (not just food sources), and support your local community businesses and neighbors.

You CANNOT use the EBT card to purchase food through the Internet - another reason to find close-by local producers and another win/win situation supporting local producers of not only food, but food plants and food plant seeds.

For Arizona residents click here to learn how someone you know may qualify for the program.

For more general information and frequently asked questions see here - one common misconception is that this program is "welfare" - it is not - no longer called welfare, the "Cash Assistance" recipients may also qualify for the nutrition assistance program but the two programs are different, separately managed and have different qualification criteria.

One last note about growing some of your own food - in her book Animal Vegetable Miracle, Barbara Kinsolver comments about their trip through Italy and how every single home in the areas they visited had some form of vegetable garden, no matter how small, nor location -- it is simply the way it is done there and has always been. Modern times have given us many benefits, but let's go backwards to the time our grandparents always had a kitchen garden, it was the way it was done, and then came TV dinners -- if you want TV dinners you can make your some from your own backyard! Now that is a real benefit.

And, just so you know, I may sell a couple more packages of seeds or a few more plants, but this really about my basic passion and mission - I want YOU, who ever you are, to garden successfully and enjoy the thrill and taste of food from your own backyard.

Have a great day in the garden, (early morning and evening of course, right now),

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady