Working to establish the Village Farmers’ Market in southwest Baltimore has been a unique and informative experience for me. As an individual who only vaguely knew about processes and challenges that arose with regards to starting such a program, being a part of this group has been extremely eye-opening. My favorite part of the process has been the support of the community. The Village Farmers’ Market is bringing healthy, satisfying food to an area that not only needs it, but craves it as well. Hearing an enthusiastic response from community members has been a large motivator for me. Learning more about farmers’ market and the work that goes into setting up and forming such programs has also given me a greater sense of appreciation for all the beneficial events and programs that others have worked tirelessly and passionately to establish.
As a person who is interested in learning more about the health of individuals, especially as it intersects with the lives of older adults and their life choices, it is evident that food plays a significant role in this area. I had primarily been working on aspects of food access with regards to the Village Farmers’ Market, which I felt was one way to combat the concerns and problems I had regarding the food system and nutritional resources available to sustain a healthy, happy population. However, when establishing a market or doing any sort of planning, certain tasks take priority. At some point, I felt that my own focuses had understandably fallen toward the wayside. A major aspect I took away from this experience was learning to readjust and contribute in any way that I could so that proper foundations could be made. As a student who is so used to having work fed to me, I found it difficult to determine where I was needed and where I could best help. I think the nature of community efforts really emphasize this idea of pitching in wherever possible. Work in this effort seemed mostly voluntary, but sometimes I just wanted work to be allocated to me, especially since my major piece of this project, federal assistance programs, went on the backburner. Additionally, this effort, like most real-world initiatives, has been a very dynamic process with unexpected twists and turns. It was somewhat difficult creating a workable schedule considering the many malleable factors in the process of creating a farmers’ market. Mediating these challenges and working as part of a team poses its own difficulties, especially since we only could meet in person periodically to discuss our progress. It was difficult for me to express and fully understand others’ concerns via email and other non-face-to-face interactions.
Although these obstacles require some effort to mediate, the process has been rewarding. For other students who are interested in continuing to work on the Village Farmers’ Market, I believe the most important quality needed is active communication skills, particularly with getting in contact with others. Constant interaction is needed to continuously access needs and prioritize activities and tasks. It is best to ask questions when you aren’t sure rather than wait for someone to engage you. Essentially with this process, as with any collaborative effort, organization and team dynamics play a key role in success.
My previous ideas of “Food Justice” never really considered anything before the consumer. The efforts of farmers, manufacturers, and distributors all affect what goes onto our plates and into our stomachs. Additionally, I never really paid attention to the worries of these individuals. With my involvement with the Village Farmers’ Market, I was able to have a better look into the concerns of famers and vendors and how they determine if people are interested and will buy their produce or product. With the amount of demand and the support of the community, I’m confident that this farmers’ market will be a success!