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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

What Happens When Farmers and Food Buyers “Speed Date”

Thanks to Brittany Crump and Billie Karel, master’s in public health candidates in Nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill and interns at Wake County Cooperative Extension, for this article.

Farmers Bennie and Karona Glenn of Genesis Farms (Holly Springs) selling at Produce Day on Wednesdays on Poole Rd. in Raleigh.

Farmers Bennie and Karona Glenn of Genesis Farms (Holly Springs) selling at Produce Day on Wednesdays on Poole Rd. in Raleigh.

If you have driven down Poole Rd. near 440 in Raleigh on a Wednesday evening recently, you may have noticed a new roadside farm stand.  If you look a little more closely, you will see that this produce stand is located on the lawn of Wanda’s Little Hands Educational Center, where something special is taking root. 

As a result of AHA’s 10+10: Growers Meeting Buyers networking/ “speed dating” event last January, farmer Bennie and Karona Glenn of Genesis Farms in Holly Springs and Wanda McCargo, director of Wanda’s Little Hands Educational Centers in Raleigh, have partnered to offer Produce Day from 4-7 pm each Wednesday at 3308 Poole Rd. Wanda invites community members to stop by and support this local farmer.

Local Fare for the Community and  the Child Care Center

In addition to offering the community this convenient opportunity to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, Wanda is purchasing produce from Genesis Farm for snacks and meals for her child care centers.

After meeting at AHA’s 10+10 event, they decided to offer the Produce Day stand for the community. In addition, Wanda is participating in a 9-week Farm to Child Care pilot in which several child care centers in Wake are buying local produce from local farmers this summer for the children’s snacks and meals. AHA and its partners Wake County SmartStart and Wake County Cooperative Extension are conducting the pilot through funds awarded by the John Rex Endowment to learn about the opportunities and barriers to centers providing local produce.

For the Glenns, this relationship has opened up a new market to sell their produce, and Bennie says that it also allows children to try new vegetables and learn about farming–something many children do not get to do anymore.  “Children can get to see some real whole foods that they wouldn’t otherwise try. And the parents as well,” Karona said. “You’re educating the parents just by having something different on the center’s menu.”

For McCargo, it is more than a pilot program. “It’s not just a program here; we’re doing this as a community. It’s all about awareness, it’s about changing a whole mindset, how people think and what we’re used to so that children and their families try more fresh fruits and vegetables.”

The children and child care center staff are learning about what foods grow locally here in North Carolina, and the families learn as the children do. As Farmer Bennie says, “All our children need some healthy food because obesity is a real serious thing.”

In Good Heart Farm and Irregardless Cafe at the June 2013 Farm to Fork Picnic.

In Good Heart Farm and Irregardless Cafe teamed up for the June 2013 Farm to Fork Picnic.

More 10+10 Connections

AHA’s “speed dating” for farmers and food buyers event last January also has resulted in several Wake County farmers selling to The Produce Box.  In addition, connections made at the AHA event led to In Good Heart Farm teaming up with the Irregardless Café for the annual Farm to Fork Picnic in June. “Connecting to the soil is connecting to health. Connecting to our farmers is putting a face to good health,” said Anya Gordon of Irregardless Café. “Ben Shields and Patricia Parker at In Good Heart Farm bring us hopeful optimism and renewal to our lives and Irregardless’ patrons. Thank you AHA for connecting us!”

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