Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mobile Farm Market Begins

By Becky St. Clair

On June 9, 2014, the Mobile Farm Market, provided by the Andrews University Student Gardens, opened for business for the first time, selling fresh produce in Benton Harbor for six hours.

The farmer’s market on wheels is a program sponsored by the Andrews University Student Gardens and partially funded by a Michigan State grant as part of the Be Healthy Berrien initiative. In partnership with the Berrien County Health Department and Planning Commission, the YMCA, Lakeland Healthcare, the cities of Buchanan, Niles and Stevensville, and United Way, the Gardens will be helping host a mobile farm market at strategic locations within the county in an effort to bring affordable healthy food to the community.

“Berrien County has identified seven locations within its borders with a high concentration of low income families who have limited access to produce and groceries,” explains Stephen Erich, mobile farm market coordinator. “These areas are classified as food deserts.”

The food truck takes fresh produce to specific locations within the neighborhoods in these “food deserts,” and sells it to local families for affordable prices. The mobile farm market accepts Bridgecard food stamps, cash and credit/debit cards.

“Everything we’re doing is working toward making Berrien County a healthier place,” says Erich. “We’re not just providing local families with tangible things; we’re also helping to educate them. It’s about building community and taking care of our neighbors.”

The Gardens also have a local intern who accompanies them to the mobile farm market locations. The intern will learn how to operate the market so they can create similar programs in their own neighborhood, all while gaining business skills and work experience. The Gardens also have about 20 student employees during the summer, planting, tending, harvesting and delivering to those signed up for its produce subscription service.

In addition to the partnerships they’ve established through the county, each location for the mobile farm market represents a positive relationship with a local community center or church.

“Providing good, organic food to the community at an affordable price makes me feel good about what I’m doing,” says Arthur Mulyono, gardens manager. “I’m giving something back to my community and serving others. That’s what being a Christian is all about.”

Though the program is in an experimental phase this summer, if the response is positive they may do it again in the future.

“It’s a wonderful witnessing tool,” says Erich. “Health is emphasized a lot within the Adventist Church. It’s important for us as Christians and as young people within the Church to encourage healthy living and do what we can to provide that opportunity for those in our community who may not otherwise be able to manage it.”

To learn more about the Andrews Student Gardens and the mobile farm market, visit augardens.com and follow them on Twitter @berrienmarket and at facebook.com/AUagri.

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