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Jul 08, 2016

Bank Local, Eat Local

Grand Rapids State Bank helps the Farmers' Market celebrate its 30th birthday with staffing, card readers, promotions and a giant birthday card

by Jesse Davis


Grand Rapids State Bank helps the Farmers' Market celebrate its 30th birthday with staffing, card readers, promotions and a giant birthday card


There’s a new, bright smiling face at the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market.


Ana Noble isn’t bringing her produce or baked goods to Market, though. She’s bringing 'banked goods' - nearly 3 years of banking experience and Grand Rapids State Bank’s commitment to local food to the Market Booth this summer.


Ana is the fifth in a series of Bank employees and interns that help folks use their credit, debit and EBT cards at the Farmers’ Market over the busy summer season to buy local produce, meat, honey, eggs, maple syrup, flowers and baked goods. She makes sure that farmers get paid, folks using food assistance triple their buying power, and that the books are ship-shape.


“Having one of these whip-smart young bank employees covering the hundreds of financial logs and transactions throughout the day is a huge benefit for our market,” explains Market Manager Bill Boutang. “It gives me the opportunity to concentrate on promotion, food demonstrations, set-up and breakdown, customer interactions... the Market wouldn't be the same without their hard work.”


Beginning with Hannah Fedje-Johnston back in 2012, followed by Madison Reid, Lindsay Mattei and Sammy Swanson, young interns and employees of Grand Rapids State Bank have become a summer fixture at the market.


Ana was excited when she learned she would be working at the Market twice a week. “I love being outdoors... if it's not raining, that's where you'll find me!” she exclaims.


Ana caught the gardening bug at Northern Lights Community School in Warba where she graduated in 2012. “We had attended several PeaceJam events in the Cities and in Colorado where we met Nobel Prize winners,” Noble explains, “and when we came back to school we decided to plant a peace garden.”


The students also took care of a vegetable garden; Ana grows some of the same fruits and veggies at her home that she did at Northern Lights.


“Strawberries, peppers, onions, carrots... I'm also trying cantaloupe this year,” she says.


She has really been enjoying the friendly atmosphere and the farmers at the market. “They are all so kind, patient and grateful.” Since she is the one that makes sure farmers get paid for all their card transactions at the end of the day, chances are they will remain grateful!


“Getting a heartfelt 'thank you' from people who use their food assistance and the double matching program really feels good too,” Ana says.


 The Market has been using the Bank's checking services for decades, but when it began accepting credit, debit and EBT cards, they asked State Bank if they could lend a hand.


“Community banking is about supporting the local community,” says Noah Wilcox, president and CEO of the Bank. “We're proud to partner with the Market to support efforts that deliver local food to local residents. Helping the Market accept various forms of electronic payments makes the market accessible to more people, and we are proud of that.”


Beyond sharing the 'human' resource of interns and employees, GRSB gives the Market incredible merchant rates for card processing, donates not one but two wireless card readers (keeping a backup only a few blocks away – and yes, it has come in very handy!) and this year is helping the Market celebrate its 30th birthday in style with an unprecedented promotion blitz.


Starting on Monday, the Bank is giving the market a giant thank you card. As in GIANT: the billboard across from their Pokegama Branch in front of the Holiday Station.


Between colorful 'Bank Local Eat Local' signs and buttons worn by the bank tellers and signage outside of the Pokegama Branch, State Bank has also been including the Farmers' Market in their social media campaigns.


The Market will also be offering a local food gift basket drawing each Wednesday in the Downtown Branch – anyone can sign up to win. Simply head into the lobby at 523 NW 1st Ave from 9 AM to 3 PM and enter to win. Winners will be contacted and can pick up their basket the following Wednesday afternoon.


Marketing Director Julie Birkey and Marketing Project Manager Kristi Poling have bent over backwards to help promote the Market and the 30 farmers and producers who call it home.


It shouldn't come as a surprise, though. A local bank supports local entrepreneurs and local business – what the vendors of the Farmers' Market truly are. In turn, these local businesses look to the expertise, connections and know-how that only a local bank like GRSB has.


“We've had several community banks within Minnesota call and ask about how we've worked with the Farmers' Market,” says bank Senior Vice President Ed Zabinski. “What we have considered a natural way of supporting our community has turned out to be a model that other banks are taking a lot of interest in.”


“Birthdays are great milestones to celebrate,” Zabinski continues, “we certainly had a lot of fun with our 100th just two years ago. It's also important, however, to look beyond those milestones towards the future, and we're excited to continue working with the Market for the next 30 years.”


Celebrate the heritage and local flavor of seasonal summer produce, meat, home-baked goods and so much more every Wednesday and Saturday at the Grand Rapids Farmers' Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. next to Glen's Army Navy on Highway 2.

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