The Sun News

Farmers markets united in helping local growers, consumers

Local produce and other goods are for sale at The International City Farmers’ Market in Warner Robins.
Local produce and other goods are for sale at The International City Farmers’ Market in Warner Robins. wmarshall@macon.com

Jodi Daley, founder of International City Farmers Market in Warner Robins, talks about supporting local farmers and providing good local produce to customers.

Residence: Elko

Q: How long have you operated the International City Farmers’ Market?

A: We’re on year nine.

Q: And you manage others?

A: The Perry farmers market has been here for 16 years and we run it. For a while we helped run the Mulberry Market at Tattnall Square in Macon.

Q: Are the two separate or unified?

A: Well, there’s a unity of purpose among all of us who work to create a Middle Georgia food system that values small scale, sustainable, natural agriculture and makes good food available to everyone. So there’s always that connection.

Q: But are they literally connected?

A: I manage both. They’re both under Land to Hand, which I co-founded. Land to Hand is all about creating a vibrant and diverse local food system—a healthy, happy way to eat from farm to your table. We say we’re about growing more growers.

Q: That’s a goal? Supplying locally grown, fresh food to people plus helping and increasing local farmers?

A: Absolutely.

Q: You say grow growers, but the farmers markets have also grown new businesses—true?

A: Several businesses started through the farmers markets and have gone on to open regular, storefront-type businesses.

Q: Examples?

A: My Grandma’s Empanadas is one. It started at the farmers markets and now has a restaurant on Armed Forces Boulevard across from Robins Air Force Base. Another is Simply Southern Sweets at the corner of Ball and Main streets in Perry and another is the Perfect Pear catering and restaurant on Carroll Street. There’s a connection with the Royal Garden, too, a small cut flower farm in Elko. They have an open house on Mother’s Day, so that’s coming up.

Q: And Bodega Brew—the new coffee shop in Perry?

A: Oh yeah, I opened that. It’s been barely a month and definitely an extension of the farmers markets and Land to Hand. We serve coffee, organic teas, breakfast, lunch, dinner, cater. All the businesses we’re talking about source good foods as local as possible. It’s really a growing community of growers, businesses and consumers.

Q: Did you envision that effect from the start?

A: I’m just glad to see people succeed, so yeah, I’m happy and excited about all that. New businesses employ people, provide markets for local growers and help promote our values. We all win.

Q: Why do it?

A: First, it’s about community. This is how community starts; how it works. People help each other. Food is a necessity and brings people together no matter who you are, where you live or what you look like. The more local the food, the more local the businesses, the better.

Q: Still it provides good, fresh food to people and often at quite a value, right?

A: Right, and I think part of what you’re talking about is us being part of the Wholesome Wave program where people getting assistance for food through SNAP double their dollars. If they get $10 from SNAP, Wholesome Wave doubles it to $20, so that’s quite a value.

Q: SNAP is basically food stamps?

A: Yes, but I think it’s a wrong perception if people think people on food stamps are taking advantage of the system. The stigma. Many people coming with food stamps are educated, hardworking and often young military families and veterans. Something happens and they need assistance often for just a short while. And seniors. We see so many seniors whose income just make it hard to make ends meet. They’re a huge, really huge, part of that program. Plus, don’t ignore that using benefits here trickles down to area farmers, which is a good thing, too.

Q: How does Wholesome Wave work?

A: Because we have so many vendors, food stamps are brought to a central spot and we exchange them for double value tokens. And I should be clear, the food stamp value is doubled through Wholesome Wave but they pay 60 percent and we pay the other 40 percent. That’s where we—and I don’t want to say struggle—but that’s why we do fundraisers and seek other funds. We can’t keep providing otherwise. We don’t charge farmers and vendors enough to cover that extra, so we look to friends and the community for it. We want to keep costs low for growers. And get this, Warner Robins was the number one Wholesome Wave market partner in the state, including metro Atlanta markets. We’ve been number one in EBT, SNAP sales for several years running. I see it as we’re doing something right and helping people in a big way, but it puts a strain on us.

Q: What fundraisers?

A: This year we need about $30,000 to keep the program. On May 10, My Grandma’s Empanadas is having a fundraiser where a percent of receipts and all tips go toward it. Just Tapped is doing something with us here at Bodega Brew June 16. We’re having a Farm to Table dinner in the country in Elko in the late summer, early fall, but don’t have an exact date yet. We’re looking for sponsors and supporters for that. There are some other things in the works, too.

Q: How will people know?

A: Keep track of us at www.landtohand.org and follow us on Facebook. Just look for Land to Hand. Ask us at the farmers markets or see me at Bodega Brew.

Q: Back to the markets themselves, what are the hours?

A: We’re just getting to our peak seasons and lots of great things are coming in. Warner Robins is Thursdays 1 to 6 p.m. at Maple Street and Watson Boulevard, and Perry is Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Carroll Street. Centerville has a market the first and third Saturdays at 9 a.m. I want to plug them, too.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

  Comments