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DES MOINES, Iowa –The farmers’ market season kicks off in just a couple weeks, and people are getting excited.

One program encourages older Iowans to take advantage of the fresh produce at farmers markets across the state.

Joleta Laktash likes fresh produce, like “tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash," she said.

When she heard about the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program a few years ago, she knew she had to sign up.

"It gives you a chance to have the fresh vegetables, which are fun to cook or grill because we haven't had them all winter, and just see friends down there," said Laktash.

Each season, she gets 10 vouchers worth $3 to spend at participating farmers market vendors. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It's a great program because it benefits not only the older adults that receive the checks, but also the local farmers markets and growers that get to benefit from the seniors spending the checks," said Kate Rittman, director of Aging Resources of Central Iowa Nutrition Service.

You must be 60 or older and meet income requirements. The $30 for a season might not seem like a lot, but Paul Ovrom with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said it serves a big purpose.

"It helps them acquire that fresh locally grown produce, and then creates an incentive for them to go back to the market throughout the season," Ovrom said.

People who qualify can sign up for the program at places like congregate meal sites, senior housing facilities, or with their case manager.

"People can start signing up now, but the checks don't start coming out until June 1st, and they can be spent June 1st to the end of October," said Rittman.

About 20,000 older Iowans will get the vouchers. It's first-come-first-serve, and demand is growing along with the popularity of farmers markets.

"It seems like we've been having a lot of interest this year," said Rittman.

You can find more information about the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program on the Aging Resources of Central Iowa's website.

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