WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – It may be the off season for local farmers’ markets, but big changes are coming just in time for this year’s growing season.

A Trumbull County neighborhood group received a loan that hopes to connect more people with fresh food options.

A couple months ago, Cassandra Clevenger and her team at Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership applied for a grant perfect for local farmers’ markets.

“It is one of the biggest nationally known programs to support farmers’ markets in the country,” said Clevenger.

The grant is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.

It gives $200,000 to the Trumbull Neighborhood Project over the next three years.

They plan to bring together farmers’ markets in Trumbull and Mahoning Counties.

Its main purpose is to make people aware of local farmers’ markets.

“There’s also dollars available to train our local farmers’ market managers and sent them to regional conferences on marketing and foo safety,” Clevenger said.

Shannon Lehn runs the Austintown Farmers’ Market during growing season.

“Any money that we have for marketing is only through our vendor fees, and we want to keep our vendor fees low,” said Lehn.

She explains most farmers’ markets are not able to apply for government loans because they aren’t non-profits.

She says creating this network helps market managers focus on imporving quality.

“Focus my energy and time into on creating a better market for our community and other market managers are going to be able to do the same,” Lehn said.

Clevenger says this will be their biggest push to date to limit food deserts in the valley.

The grant will also allow all markets to accept SNAP payments as well as cash.

In addition to big cities, this helps places in the Valley that aren’t as well known when you think of food deserts.

“We talk a lot about Youngstown and Warren and how they’re a food desert, but what people don’t realize is there’s areas outside of those cities in both counties that can also be classified as food deserts,” said Clevenger.

The plan is to call it the Mahoning Valley Farmers’ Market Network.

In-person meetings with local market managers are planned for once a year.

Anyone interested in joining the network can reach out to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership directly either at their website or calling them at 330-647-6301.