This blogpost was composed by Julie Segal, communication liaison for the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ The J.
Mary Montgomery, New Roots Uber Farmer Liaison, pictured here with farmer Joseph Monroe from Ashbourne and Valley Spirit Farm.
About 20 people showed up at the Jewish Community Center on March 9th to hear a presentation titled, “Are Tractors Sexy and Other Burning Questions about Organic Agriculture in Kentucky?” This event was sponsored by New Roots and the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ The J and was the last installment of the 2017 Food Justice Workshops. Participants heard from two organic farmers who supply fresh organic produce to Fresh Stop Markets.
Fresh Stop Markets are bi-weekly pop-up markets where food can be purchased on a sliding scale. Everyone is invited to participate regardless of their ability to pay, said Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots Executive Director. People from across the community purchase food from small family farmers through the Fresh Stop Market @ The J.
Michael Fraade, JOFEE Fellow [Jewish Outdoor Food and Environmental Education], said, “It is wonderful to bring New Roots’ food justice workshop series to the J and to connect people with opportunities to learn about the critical role of local farmers in our food system. I have been to a number of other New Roots workshops and they have been excellent at connecting different Louisville residents and getting them excited to sign up for this year’s Fresh Stop Markets.”
Joseph Monroe, manager of Ashbourne Farms, was one of the farmers who spoke at the meeting saying,
“It is nice to have New Roots to connect farmers with people who do not have easy access to fresh foods."
Another farmer, Ben Abell, and his wife, Bree Pearsall, are owners of Rootbound Farm. They also supply fresh organic produce to the Fresh Stop Markets. Rootbound Farm has been a certified organic farm for six years. “As organic farmers, we are concerned about the health of the soil, air and water as well as our workers and the health of our customers,” Abell said. “Fresh Stop Markets have been great partners in our efforts,” he added.
“We have focused on extending our growing season by building greenhouses with crops that can be harvested in the winter,” Monroe said.
Both farmers view traditional farmers’ markets as more of a public relations tool to reach out to consumers to build their CSAs and help New Roots build Fresh Stop Markets. This is because the traditional model does not guarantee farmers an income, but Fresh Stop Markets do.
The group discussed the role of grass in Kentucky, grass-finished beef, and our livestock industry. Currently, most of our beef, sheep and goats grow up eating Kentucky grass, but then are exported as young animals to feedlots in the Midwest, where they are fattened up on corn and soybeans. Grass-finished beef, such as that supplied by Ashbourne Farms, and lamb, supplied by Rootbound Farm, is more nutritious, high in Omegas and generally more delicious. This year, New Roots will pilot selling Ashbourne Farm’s ground beef at select Markets.
The conversation got heavy as participants shared their knowledge on the role of federal subsidies on corn, soybeans and other commodity crops that results in nutritious fresh food being more expensive than processed food. Fresh Stop Markets sliding scale helps to overcome the price barrier. However, everyone agreed that at some point, Fresh Stop Market leaders need to get involved in federal policy discussions to fix this problem.
Abell said some of the local vegetables shareholders of the Market can look forward to from Rootbound Farm this coming growing season (set to kick off May 10th) include beans, tomatoes, watermelons and more.
So as to whether tractors are sexy.....Joseph prefers red tractors while Ben likes them green.