Like minds came together in September when a contingent from the Georgia Farmers’ Market Association (GFMA) visited New Roots for a busy three days to learn about the fight for food justice here and what lessons they could take back to their own state.
Their association doesn’t currently run its own farmers’ markets, having focused its efforts supporting those who do, but hope to open their own Fresh Stop Market this coming spring.
The relationship between the GFMA and New Roots began in April of 2015 when New Root’s Amber Burns and Karyn Moskowitz were invited to speak at the Harvard Law School’s Just Food Conference. “There were not that many other grassroots organizers there, and very few people of color,” remembered Karyn. “We naturally migrated toward Sagdrina Jalal and immediately became friends. Over the past 2 ½ years, we have been stirring up ideas on how we could partner together. We kept in touch, but lack of money, and distance got in our way.”
That changed when Sagdrina, Karyn and JOFEE Fellow and Gendler Grapevine FSM leader Michael Fraade met southern SARE’s director Brennan Washington, who agreed to supply seed money for the partnership. Brennan especially supported the impact a possible Georgia Fresh Stop Market would have on building markets for Georgia’s minority and limited resource farmers.
Executive Director Sagdrina Jalal said the GFMA leaders share the same belief as New Roots, that fresh food is a basic human right.
“When you lead with something that direct, then it opens up the door to work cooperatively, and we can see that,” she said, while visiting the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ the J. “We’re talking about food here, not something that is a luxury item.”
One of the areas the Georgia group liked about New Roots’ approach was the partnerships it had formed with area farmers.
“Hopefully this year we will incorporate something similar, by forecasting and designing a plan that is similar if not mimicking exactly what is going on here,” said Musa Hasan, a farmer and researcher at Emory University.
Jalal said that by working directly with farmers and guaranteeing them that someone is going to buy their products, it gives them more freedom to grow different things instead of “safe” items that always sell.
“This gives them an opportunity to focus on growing and not trying to predict and look into the future,” she said. “I think a lot of farmers play it safe because they know a lot of people are going to eat tomatoes, or peaches, so I would love to demonstrate that if we dedicate this one space and we can guarantee that that this one thing you grow is going to be purchased by us, that just has to provide a whole lot of freedom. I hope to share that with our farmers.”
Having chefs at each of the Fresh Stop Markets also was a big hit with the Georgia contingent.
“Having someone show the shareholders who may not be familiar with all the local vegetables, this is what (a share item) is, this is what you can do with it, this is the benefit of this veggie, and this is the actual farm that this came from, that's the other great thing about New Roots,” Hasan said.
Lois Peterson, a Georgia Farmers’ Market Association board member, said getting to work with New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets has provided them with an entire model they can plug into their own neighborhoods.
“It’s very much duplicatable at this point because there is a methodology and a system for everything,” she said, “from projecting how much the farmers will grow to, how much is needed for the physical set up, how to set up the food, how to share the information, how to invite the volunteer chefs.”
Karyn, Michael, and Rootbound Farm’s Seamus Allman will travel to Georgia to speak at and participate in the GFMA’s annual conference at the end of November. The hope and dream is that the partnership will result in thriving Fresh Stop Markets in Georgia for the 2018 growing season.