The Chicago Tribune has a story out today about how a few new farmers markets in low-income and ethnic communities are struggling. “They’ve learned that offering fresh produce and educating people about the environmental advantages of locally grown food is not necessarily enough to sustain a farmers market,” reporter Kristen Mack wrote.
Organizers of these markets, set up in working-class neighborhoods and “food deserts” where healthy food is nearly impossible to find, are trying out lots of tricks to get some staying power. Some of them are accepting food stamps, some are opening on Sunday rather than Saturday to catch the church crowd. Vendors have learned that exotic produce doesn’t move like the fruits and vegetables people already know how to cook. Hopefully they’ll pick up a few more tricks so they can stay in business and keep fresh, local foods available in communities that wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.
I recently visited Luis Acosta. He was born in the remote community of La Elencia where he has lived for 60 years.
During his lifetime he has seen a lot of change. “When I was 6 this was still a mountainous area with lots of animals,” he said. Unfortunately, the big trees were cut, and the wild birds, jaguar and deer left. “I think it was a huge richness we lost,” Luis said with a shake of his head.
Luis and his family began working with Heifer in 2006 when they received a cow, rabbits, fruit trees and training. Through the trainings they learned soil conservation techniques and ways to protect the environment. I was happy to learn that in a few of the areas where they restored the forest, deer and wild pigs have returned.
Beyond protecting the environment for animals, Luis points out that healthy land means healthy people. I was amazed to learn that prior to this project the local church had identified 70% of the children as malnourished, and today all of the children are at or above their normal weight.
Christian DeVries is interviewing project participants in Honduras on behalf of Heifer International. This is the fourth in a series of posts he’s sending from the field. You can read his earlier posts here.