Community driven farmers markets {part 2-food system growth}

It all started with a meal shared by friends to discuss new opportunities for local food.  We were talking about a potential farmers market location, but much more was mentioned.  Food hubs, local food publications, farm to table (campus, restaurants, schools), accepting WIC/Senior Nutrition/SNAP benefits, encouraging families to visit local farms and teaching people to cook again.  Our personal interest came from the amount of time we were spending gathering our food from a 60 mile radius knowing that there had to be a simpler way.  As more farmers became involved as well as outreach professionals and consumers we realized that our area was on the edge of a huge breakthrough in local food.  It was exciting.

We wrote in part 1 about how important it was that our market represents the entire community as much as possible.  That meant doing work to reach the food insecure, but it equally meant reaching those with the plenty of resources (many of whom wanted more local food than they already had access to).  So why would a farmers market want to get into the hard work of food system growth?  Because farmers markets are comfortable, recognizable, approachable and a great gathering place for those who love local food.  Community Farmers market has become a place that farmers can just come and sell delicious food and customers can come and enjoy a Saturday morning.  But for those who want to do more, volunteer and collaborate they have plenty of ways to do that. 

Slowly over the past three years as Community Farmers Market has come into its own many of its members have moved into their own work of expanding their own operations, opening store fronts, starting CSA’s, etc.  As a market that is open twelve months of the year it became more clear to everyone that local food could sustain us.

On October 24th, 2012 Community Farmers Market, Barren River District Health Department, Western Kentucky University along with several other state and local groups joined together to host our first Food Day event.  The response we received from across the state helped us recognize that Bowling Green was becoming a “foodie” town, but not just for a select group of people…local food like generations past was going to be back on the dinner plate.  The Food Day event was on the heels of Community Farmers Market in partnership with WKU receiving a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant to launch the Local Food For Everyone initiative.  That initiative has printed a local food publication and is months away from a new mobile farmers market that will allow access to even more people in South Central, Kentucky.

We recognize that our efforts were very timely as our local government agencies and public health officials were recognizing local food as one of 6 ways to lower obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  This hits close to home for us as we have lost family members from these diseases and are concerned with changing our food habits at home.  The Community Health Plan   identified the need for the Barren River District Food System Alliance to be formed (lead by Community Farm Alliance and has become a monthly meeting of community leaders working together to build a more fluid food system.  As parents and farmers we are honored to have a voice in our community as it relates to policy, progress and growth that will effect our own children and the generation to come.  Get involved!

Nathan and Michelle