A Note from the Executive Director
The Fourth of July weekend falls in the heart of farmers market season. This year, I will be meeting with a group of area food leaders at the first Food Sovereignty Convening hosted by the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network. Three days of conversations on topics such as heirloom seed saving, addressing black land loss and preserving traditional foodways will take place in the heart of Birmingham.
A core value of GFMA surrounds bringing producers and consumers together to make decisions that benefit everyone. Discussions like the ones happening this weekend bring forth a deeper meaning to words like independence and freedom. As such, the timing for this event is perfect. I will lead a skill-share about farmers markets; providing insight as to how the Georgia Farmers Market Association supports communities as they develop local systems… on their own terms.
Last summer, we established the Local Food Accountability Model at the Norcross Community Market. The goal was to demonstrate how farmers markets are the perfect platform for community development. Through our partnership with Sustainable Norcross, we were able to bring together key stakeholders including representatives from Norcross’ ethnically diverse citizenship, local food advocates, and policy makers. We were intentional about providing space for demographics including the senior population and families experiencing poverty, both essential in the development phase of the market. Once the market opened, we extended the community experience each market day. A group of new vendors were given the tools they needed to be successful including a ServSafe class taught locally and in Spanish. Students from the local Summerour Middle School were able to gain support from their neighbors as they petitioned for cafeteria options that were fresh and culturally relevant, through a project known as the Mexican Fruit Cup Project. We also surveyed shoppers to get feedback on our efforts. A lot has happened in the year that has passed. In August, we began a similar project with the Lithonia Farmers Market and most recently we’ve started working in Walton County (in partnership with Walton Wellness). GFMA is helping to expand their extremely impactful Mobile Farmacy which provides fresh produce at no charge to families with an expressed need.
While our role varies from place to place, our commitment to respecting the sovereignty of each community does not. To maintain this commitment, we have established a few important boundaries: We do not impose our personal values in any space
We recognize that we are not the experts on the needs in a given environment; the community is. Our job is not to dictate the design of a local food system, but to collaborate with stakeholders to establish a placed based system.
While we believe in our ability to grow and replicate the success we’ve experienced in Georgia communities, we know that we must keep sovereignty at the core of all we do. Foodmust represent freedom.