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GFMA Welcomes Two FoodCorps Service Members
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The Georgia Farmers Market Association is excited to announce that it is hosting two FoodCorps service members this year, Hannah McTier and Deanna Perlman, who will be serving at two elementary schools in Walton County. FoodCorps is a national initiative that serves to connect kids to healthy food in school in order to create a future in which all children, regardless of their location, socioeconomic status, or race, know what healthy food is, care about where it comes from, and eat it every day. The reality is that  9 out of 10 children do not eat enough vegetables, 6 out of 10 children do not eat enough fruit, and 1 out of 3 children (and 1 out of 2 children of color) are on track to develop diabetes in their lifetime. Schools can help close the nutrition gap by creating healthy food environments and getting kids on a healthy path to success. FoodCorps partners with school communities to help create healthy food environments through hands-on learning, healthy meals, and a culture of health. FoodCorps service members support and empower the communities they serve in order to create a healthy food environment with staying power for future generations. FoodCorps does this work through service members like Hannah and Deanna.

Studies have shown that 75% of schools with FoodCorps service members were measurably healthier, and 6 out of 10 students had improved attitudes towards vegetables. Furthermore, students in FoodCorps schools who received hands-on lessons were eating three times the amount of fruits and vegetables than students who did not receive those lessons.

As the Georgia Farmers Market Association continues to grow and further its goal of increasing whole food access, it hopes that the partnership with FoodCorps will expand awareness, outreach, and educational opportunities to a new audience of young people. Schools and communities are showing an increased desire to incorporate farm-to-school lessons into their curriculum and nutrition programs. With the help of FoodCorps, GFMA would like to see these initiatives expand and thrive across the state, giving schools and communities the resources they need to impact and shape their local food system.

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Hannah McTier grew up on a farm in the small town of Washington, GA. Her dad raised cattle for a living and her mom grew and processed produce for their family to eat. As a young child, she could not wait to get off the farm and out of that small town, but after going to college, she realized how much agriculture really meant to her. Not only was farming a way of living, but it was a fundamental part of her being. Whether she was working outside all day or not, she knew she wanted to pursue a career rooted in agriculture where she could help make a difference in the lives of small-scale farmers, like her parents. After having this epiphany, Hannah stumbled upon FoodCorps and fell in love with their role in the farm to school movement. She considers herself lucky to be a FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member, serving through the Georgia Farmers Market Association to impact the local food and school systems of Walton County for the 2017-2018 school year.

Deanna Perlman comes to FoodCorps hoping to engage and inspire young people to get their hands dirty and tap into their own creative energy. She studied Family and Consumer Science Education in college to teach life skills that help people become more resourceful and renew their sense of self-worth and satisfaction. She spent the last five years working on small, organic farms to gain first hand experience with sustainable agricultural practices and local food systems. She is an avid fiber artist, dabbling in everything from spinning wool to dyeing yarn. Last but certainly not least, she is also the mother of a 1 year old son named Indigo who loves trucks and swimming at the pool.

For more information about The Georgia Farmers Market Association and FoodCorps, visit their websites: www.mygeorgiamarket.org and www.foodcorps.org. You can also contact Deanna or Hannah to learn more about their service in Walton County: deanna.perlman@foodcorps.org and hannah.mctier@foodcorps.org.

August's Note from the Executive Director
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The summer is quickly becoming one of my favorite times of year. Long, hot days filled with local, fresh produce available at Georgia markets every single day of the week.  At GFMA, we have an all hands on deck approach to the season. Our focus is on outreach, specifically, helping our market managers and producers connect directly with people who want to buy good food for their families. This year, in the midst of it all, we learned that our beloved Lolade Olowolayemo would be returning to Texas to begin pursuing her goal of providing a holistic model of gynecological and maternal care.  We knew when she joined the team that we wouldn't have her very long but we just were not ready for her to go! Lolade’s mark on Georgia Farmers Market Association is clear.  She took our Nourish curriculum and expanded it, creating an outreach model that our market managers use to not only reach new shoppers but record and collect data weekly.  Lolade and I worked together to build a comprehensive consulting arm of the association, which is proving to be a solid way for GFMA to dig deeper in communities and support local food systems in a robust way.  What I will remember most, however, is how patient and kind she is with everyone she encounters along the way.  Her genuine and loving spirit was captured on video at the Food for Thought Conference; I couldn't believe how fondly she spoke of our work, considering she and I were functioning on about 3 hours of sleep at that point! To say she will be missed is an understatement.  We simply can’t thank her enough.

For all the reasons listed above, filling the programs coordinator position became my top priority. Let me pause for a moment of transparency: as Executive Director, I spend a lot of time in meetings and traveling around the state (and elsewhere) engaging members, shoppers and supporters in discussions surrounding the critical need for thriving local food systems.  It is the programs coordinator, who works behind the scenes, keeping things structured and running smoothly. For a small, grassroots organization like ours, these are big shoes to fill.  After combing through over 100 applications and conducting 12 interviews, we found the perfect fit, Jen Wassum.

Jen Wassum comes to GFMA with a wealth of experience and a breadth of knowledge. She also has a deep passion for sustainable agriculture. An emerging leader in the Atlanta local food scene, she is innovative and full of amazing ideas on how we can improve our work and expand our reach. Beyond her amazing credentials, Jen has fit right in as a member of our team. Talk about a perfect fit!

I suppose it could be awkward to spend a few weeks being trained by the person that you are replacing. It could be equally uncomfortable to receive feedback and plans from someone who is filling your position. To our delight, there has been zero weirdness between Jen and Lolade. Their stellar character and commitment to this work has shined through this transition. August in the GFMA office has been full of excitement and possibilities!

Join us as we say wish Lolade well on the next phase of her journey and welcome Jen with open arms. Sentiments to both of these rockstars can be emailed to programs@mygeorgiamarket.org.

July's Note from the Executive Director

Recently I’ve found myself in several targeted discussions surrounding local food. More specifically the role farmers markets play in cultivating communities.  One thing is for sure, it is hard to bring a group of people together without involving food. It is also impossible to discuss the basic food needs of a community without creating space for conversations around topics such as access, sustainability, sovereignty and justice. Last week in Norcross, I sat on a panel with two of Gwinnett’s local food champions Karla Blaginin of Dichos de la Casa and Connie Weathers of Sustainable Norcross. We were also joined by Jassan Gilliam of Gilliam’s Community Garden; a long standing Atlanta farm that has been a part of the Norcross Community market since its inception in 2015. Foodwell Alliance hosted this Local Food Forum in order the highlight the work being done in Gwinnett County surrounding local food. Residents were able to hear directly from a farmer about the challenges she faces because she is determined to make local food available to the community. As community builders, we discussed how difficult it is to carry all the eggs in a such a small basket… it really has to be a team effort. But how do we work best for the greater good?  Together we have to find ways to go beyond the surface of the challenges our communities face. Do we have disinterested residents or have we, as leaders, stopped short in our efforts towards inclusion?

What represents us better than the soil beneath our feet. It is a living, breathing testament to our history. It encompasses all the good, the bad, and the utterly unimaginable. If what you do in this lifetime doesn't advance the soil for the next generation, then you are just standing still in place; or worse, keeping us from moving forward. The soil is our freedom. Claim it. Beyond anything else, humanity is central to being engaged with the world around us. How do we find fulfillment in this lifetime? Be loyal to the soil. Dig deep. Freedom is there. - Karla Blaginin

GFMA aims to empower and improve communities by supporting the foot soldiers: those determined that not only see that things can be better… they are willing to lead the charge! We guide them through the process of identifying other stakeholders, getting direct feedback from their neighbors,  and then creating or adapting their local farmers markets to meet everyone’s needs. We see these markets not only as a way to improve the lives of local farmers and lead to healthier lifestyles for customers, but also as a way to bring the entire community together.

Our work in Norcross (in partnership with FoodWell Alliance, Sustainable Norcross, and Dichos de la Casa) is a great testament to what we do as an organization in terms of bringing community values and needs into the farmers market setting.  The incentives, food demonstrations, and entertainment we provide at this market have not only increased its traffic but created a stronger sense of community within this area. We have also taken a little of the pressure off of new markets vendors by providing the  ServSafe course in Spanish and offering support as they set up booths at the market. When we are able to bring people of different backgrounds together in a space such as the farmers market, members of the community are able to engage with each and see the importance of supporting their neighbors.

 Stay tuned as we further develop our soil here at the Georgia Farmers Market Association.  We’ve had a bountiful harvest the last two seasons but as we dig deeper, we look to find more ways to enrich the communities we serve.

Food for Thought Conference 2017
2017 Food for Thought Conference
2017 Food for Thought Conference

The Georgia Farmers Market (GFMA) is excited to announce the dates and location for the second annual Food for Thought Conference! After the first conference last winter, GFMA went right back to the drawing board to see how this year's conference could build on the experience from last year.

The conference, which is scheduled for November 30 through December 1, 2017, will be held at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, GA.

"We were delighted by the participation, enthusiasm and impact of the Food for Thought Conference last year,” said Sagdrina Jalal, Executive Director, Georgia Farmers Market Association. “Gwinnett Technical College was an excellent venue for the event last year and we are happy to return.”

When GFMA hosted its first Food for Thought Conference at Gwinnett Technical College last year, both organizations recognized the synergy between their programs.

“We focus on real-world education and skill development at Gwinnett Technical College and we encourage our students to connect with industry associations,” said Aaron Poulsen, program director for the College’s Horticulture program. “The Food for Thought Conference is an excellent opportunity for our Horticulture and Culinary Arts program students to learn, gain valuable experience, volunteer, attend sessions and network with agricultural professionals.”

Strong and resilient farmers markets bring people together, bridge cultural gaps, encourage sustainable living, educate and inspire better food choices and healthier eating. They help local producers succeed while raising awareness and improving local food systems, stimulating local economies, and contributing to the health of entire communities. The 2017 Food for Thought Conference will facilitate and encourage meaningful dialog about ways to cultivate and assist more farmers markets, help more local producers prosper, and strengthen communities.

GFMA works year-round to strengthen connections between farmers markets and local producers to help them maintain sustainable businesses, engage their communities, and improve local food systems. The Food for Thought Conference brings market managers, farmers, municipalities, agricultural businesses, educators, healthcare professionals, food advocates and local food enthusiasts together to share their experience, knowledge and passion for healthy food, strong communities and food sovereignty.

Early Bird Conference Registration is Open Now, Learn more here.

July's Featured Farmer: Shannon Palmquist

Flying Ace Farm & Farm 2 Face Beauty

Value Added Products

Written by Shannon Palmquist

Hello, my name is Shannon and I’m a Market Farmer located in Forsyth, GA.  I’ve been farming for 3 years now, and long story short I’ve been in the Spa business for 25 years, 20 of that I was working on the Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV. The majority of my time was at the Spa at Caesars Palace where I ran the Aesthetic Department with 24 Aestheticians under me, and trained themon selling, ingredients, how to work within your treatment room etc. When I married and moved to Georgia, my dream was to live on a small farm, grow food for my family and others, and formulate a natural skin care line.

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I was so excited after my first year of growing! I applied for some markets in Middle Georgia, packed up my car the night before and off I went to my markets. Unfortunately, people were never really interested in discussing healthy food and skincare options. I had made no money after my first summer of markets. After some research, I found a fair for growers interested in natural farming. When I walked into the event and saw the Georgia Farmers Market Association booth, I bee lined right to it and there I met Sagdringa. I know I talked her ear off, but felt I found my tribe!

So now it's year 2, and after spending long chats with Sagdrina and her giving me pointers, I started my road to value added services. I made a basil pesto for shoppers to taste and sold a pesto kit, which was a hit. For my tomatoes, I did a pizza and bruschetta kits. I also grew sunflowers to sell at the market and I got my egg candlers certificate to sell my eggs. By standing at my booth and handing out samples my sales increased, which led to conversations about the products I had. My shoppers want to have healthy options that are quick to make. We have a Facebook page where I’ve posted a few recipe videos and videos of what we do!

This year I started selling my natural skin care, and it’s doing very well! It’s great to see women taking control of their skin health.

Added value to your business is all about conversations and relationships, and knowing you have to offer. Share a special recipe with the products you sell! Do a weekly video on your Facebook page!  Check your local Department of Agriculture if you need a cottage license for certain foods you can make.  With a little effort you can increase sales. Joining the Georgia Farmers Market Association is a great place to start.  They can sure steer you in a good direction if you have questions.  I’m proof for sure!

When my son and I drive to the Norcross Market, My son and I have a Mantra we say out loud: “It’s not who does it first, It’s who does it better!”

See ya at the market!

Shannon Palmquist

Market Farmer/Aesthetician

Flying Ace Farm & Farm 2 Face Beauty

Farm2facebeauty@gmail.com