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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Local Church Planning Farmer’s Market

For the past six months, the Southminster Presbyterian Church and its urban environmental ministry have been working to develop a local farmers market for the South Mountain Village community.

Southminster not only supports the surrounding neighborhood, it also encourages individuals within the community to use their good ideas to benefit the community as a whole.

The farmers market was one such idea.

“[It] started as an idea six months ago when we began to look at the needs of the community,” said Dr. George B. Brooks, Jr., an expert in sustainability and the head of the urban environmental ministry at Southminster.

According to Brooks and  Reverend Reginald Ragland, pastor at Southminster, the farmers market can help address two South Mountain Village community problems: 1) an increased number of families below the poverty level; and 2) an increased number of individuals faced with obesity and its accompanying healthcare issues.

Southminster hopes that by bringing in the farmers market, they can help people gain easy access to low-cost produce from local growers, such as Gregory’s Fresh Market Place, Horny Toad Farm and even local community gardens.

However, bringing fruits and vegetables to the community is only one goal of this local farmers market. According to Brooks and Ragland, the church is also hoping to encourage individuals and families to plant their own backyard gardens.

Recent reports peg the national poverty level at 15.1% –a 17-year high.

For Brooks, higher poverty means that an increasing number of families have to choose between healthier, but more expensive foods and paying the power bill, further compounding the health issues that individuals face.

“Obesity is one of those issues that acts as an undercurrent to so many other illnesses,” said Ragland. “If people can have quick, easy access to good quality foods, it can really help address the bigger health problems.”

But, the farmers market doesn’t just address the financial barrier to better health; it also seeks to remove those financial barriers by promoting healthy living through backyard farming.

“We like to think in terms of outcomes,” said Ragland, “and four things come to mind with growing: 1) self-sufficiency; 2) economic impact; 3) nutritional value and 4) exercise.”

Families who grow their own produce gain a sense of independence, save money, improve healthy eating habits, and, the very act of cultivating one’s own garden, equals physical activity.

Brooks added that oftentimes families will grow more than then can eat, and the farmers market’s community table will provide a place for these families to sell their produce and earn extra money.

“There are a lot of people in South Mountain Village from all economic backgrounds, who are already doing this,” said Brooks, “and they are the ones we seek to capture first.”

The farmers market will provide a community table where local families can sell their produce. It also plans to eventually provide classes and programs for families interested in learning more about backyard farming.  Plus, Brooks expects those families and individuals that are already farming their backyards to begin sharing lessons with others looking to get started.

Both Ragland and Brooks agree that Southminster is in a unique position to implement this solution and to provide a positive impact to the community in so many ways.

“The church is blessed to have the property, size and location to support such an activity,” Brooks said.

In addition to local growers, Southminster is looking to partner with programs such as the Arizona Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (AFMNP), which provides checks to families in need. As a certified farmers market, Southminster will be a location where local families can use their AFMNP funds to purchase goods for their families.

Since the farmers market is hosted by Southminster, the church can also provide additional community support. For example, Southminster hopes to host a Thanksgiving Day meal with foods provided by the Thy Neighbor Alliance community garden, which has planted corn, okra, and collard greens.

“Our goal here is to move this mountain to a higher quality of life,” said Brooks, “and sustainability is part of that tool set.”

The Southminster Farmers Market is still working out the many details such as cost, vendors, community interest and needs, and will be hosting a meeting on Sunday, October 9th at the church, located at 1923 E. Broadway Road. The farmers market, which will be held in the church parking lot, will be held on a regular schedule – days and frequency to be determined.  If you have any questions about the farmers market, or if you are interested in getting involved, please contact, Dr. George B. Brooks, Jr. at 602-276-2582 or email him at market@southminpc.org or visit online at    http://www.southminpc.org

Written by Christine Bailey



Dr. George B. Brooks, Jr.


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