In the hustle and bustle of working for the WIC program in the Southwest Region, I travel quite often, attending meetings and ensuring logistics much like many of my fellow federal and state co-workers. Recently I had the privilege to attend the Pottawatomie County Farmers Market five-year anniversary in Shawnee, OK. Having grown up in a very rural town, representing FNS was a learning experience that reminded me of home. The event was a total success, as the market was full of people including farmers, seniors, families and children. Celebrating five years of service, the event included live music, family and children’s activities, and most important of all: fresh fruit and vegetables.
I learned that famers drive hours to sell their crops at the market, and it accounts for as much as over two-thirds of their income. Most farmers market customers swear by the produce bought there, as it is much fresher and lasts longer than normal store-bought produce. In some cases, supermarket produce makes a week-long journey of over 1,500 miles before getting into the kitchen. But the most important part was seeing FNS programs like WIC and SNAP EBT represented. All of the farmers were knowledgeable about Farm to School and Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, and have even started farm tours for children and have working relationships with local schools. Getting fresh vegetables in school cafeterias straight from the farm is great on so many levels!
Observing our partnerships at the grassroots stage from farmer to a customer, or farmer to a school sets a tone for the whole region. The relationships I see built are ones that last for years, and I wish the Farmers Market all the best in their future endeavors. Here’s to another five years of successful farming and selling!