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Presentation at 2016 Massachusetts Sustainable Campuses and Communities Conference

Published in: Environment
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  1. 1. Strength Grown From A Single Seed: The Story of the Greenfield Tuesday Market Partnership
  2. 2. Starting From Seed When I think about the origins of the Tuesday Market Project, it’s nearly impossible for me to not think about it in terms of agriculture. The seed that has become the grant-funded, cooperative farmers’ market was planted over a year ago in the alley that now plays host to it. I had partnered with Just Roots, whose CSA pick up site is in that selfsame alley during the summer months, to put on a weekly cooking demonstration during their pick up hours that featured an item from that week’s farm share. Week after week, while we were helping people discover the hidden delights of kohlrabi, or the softer side of spinach, curious passers-by would come down that walkway and ask, hey--is this a farmers’ market?
  3. 3. What if….. We’d have to tell them no, and explain that it was a CSA pick up, but, it was easy to see why they made the mistake--tables groaning with gorgeous, organically-grown produce are hard to resist, and the number of times someone tried to bargain with us to purchase just a single bunch of beets or perfect bouquet of kale led to a wild little idea: well--what if it WERE a farmers’ market, during the week?
  4. 4. How’d that go? When I began thinking about what that market would look like, I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be different. I had been working with new farmers, I know a lot of young, new agrarians looking for land of their own, and I had spent time on a micro-dairy in Orange learning to milk goats---I knew how much effort went into simply being present, day after day, for the demands of this vital, energy- intense way of life. What could we do, I wondered, to make the process of joining a market easier, better, and more affordable?
  5. 5. Maybe something like… And that’s where GCC came in. A fellow Co-op employee, Jon Shina, had recently graduated from the food and farm systems program at GCC, and we had been pondering ways in which the Co-op might become involved in, and supportive of, this important educational resource in Franklin County. What if, I thought, we created a market that was staffed by students?
  6. 6. Student Power! A market staffed by students would enable new, small-scale farmers to participate in a farmers’ market without having to spend additional time away from their farm. A market staffed by students would give practical, hands-on, real-world experience to students in the food and farm program that would make the theoretical tangible, and connect them in a powerful way to the agricultural landscape of Franklin County. A market staffed by students would provide new economic energy that traveled beyond on-farm jobs, that would have the potential to create further new positions for high school students as well as it grew. A market staffed by students could be a powerful illustration of the benefits of partnership between growers and sellers, and a way to further the goal of keeping our shared economic future viable in a sustainable way.
  7. 7. Empowering Community And, speaking of a shared economic future– we also wanted to ensure that what we were doing reached beyond the immediate bounds of the market—so we decided to partner with community organizations whose social services included meal programs. They would buy our unsold produce at a reduced rate at the end of the day, and we would be able to both reduce food waste, and, to keep more of that carefully grown food on the tables of those who need it most, while reducing financial losses for our farmers!
  8. 8. That’s when… With all of these ideas in mind, I packed up my little seed of a plan and set up a meeting with Amy-Louise Pfeffer and Christine Copeland at GCC!
  9. 9. A growing field: The Farm and Food Systems Certificate at Greenfield Community College: A little background from Amy-Louise Pfeffer about who, what, where, and why this program, in this partnership!
  10. 10. Just Add Fertilizer And then we got a grant! And a partnership was born between GCC, The Franklin Community Co-op, and CISA, to further our growing ambitions!
  11. 11. The Greater Picture Our agricultural community and CISA—working together for our shared strength!
  12. 12. The Student Picture Meet Liz Suozzo—our Student Market Manager! She’s here to tell you about her connection to this project, how she came to find the farm program at GCC, and what this has meant to her sense of place and food here in Franklin County and the Pioneer Valley.
  13. 13. Our market workers: Braeden Leinhart
  14. 14. And also Dustin Cutler
  15. 15. And of course David Strong
  16. 16. What We’re All Working Towards: From the seed of one small idea, and the beginning of one single farmers’ market, we hope that this model of cooperative collaboration between a campus, a coop, and an agricultural collective can serve as a blueprint for a way forward in other similar rural communities faced with food insecurity, loss of jobs, and a youth population who feels that they have to look elsewhere for economic opportunity and possibility. The sense of place that gives meaning to our particular landscapes is something felt by all people about that particular piece of earth that they call ‘home’-- and, is something that is capable of creating similar connections across the globe. We all have to eat. In order to eat, we all rely on farmers producing the raw materials that sustain us. Food has the power to be a powerful unifying force, because we all need it in order to survive---and, in turn, for our communities to survive and thrive, we all need to participate in the process of creating sustainable avenues for continued growth that is deeply rooted in that shared sense of hunger, of place, of the celebration of our home soil.
  17. 17. Last but not least… From the issue of land succession to the preservation of agricultural landscapes to the emptying of storefronts on main streets in innumerable small towns, the future of food and farming is intimately connected to the larger picture of our global economic future as a whole. We are hungry for the tangible in an increasingly esoteric economic landscape--and, I believe, hungry for one another, as our daily interactions take place increasingly removed from the physical sphere, and are isolated in textual interchanges behind our glowing screens. Connecting small farms to students, and in turn to communities, and continuing that shared sense of purpose through the stewardship of land and food, is a way to create self-sustaining community systems whose job creation and growth enriches the people that it serves, rather than distant shareholders. Our common needs can become our shared strength. From humble seeds, acre after acre of future nourishment can grow.