The local Florida Department of Health (DOH) branch in Manatee County recently conducted a study that found that residents in Samoset, East Bradenton, Washington Gardens, Rubonia, Pride Park, Newtown and North Port neighborhoods all craved one thing: access to fresh produce.
Those who live in the seven communities listed above live in food deserts, places without easy access to fresh and affordable foods. The study reported that only 25 percent of adults in Manatee County live within a half-mile of a health food retailer, 73 percent of Manatee County residents say lower cost would help them access fresh produce and 57 percent indicated interest in shopping at a farm stand.
These statistics prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to award a $100,000 grant to the Florida DOH in Manatee County and to Geraldson Community Farm, a 20-acre organic farm in Bradenton.
“Our mission is to provide the community with safe, healthy, and fresh vegetables throughout Florida’s growing season, and our aim is to be a stepping-stone for local collaboration and an education hub for our community,” said the Geraldson Community Farm’s mission statement on their website.
When the two organizations received the grant, they set out to create a mobile farmer’s market to bring fresh produce to residents in food deserts.
Up and running, the GreenStream Mobile Market now makes four different stops throughout the community each week, including at New College on Fridays to provide students, faculty and staff the opportunity to snatch some fresh produce at a great price.
The retro and quirky bus, with bright flowers and produce painted on it, stocked with organic corn, peppers, Florida peaches, cabbage, bananas and beans, along with fresh and local kombucha, kimchi, honey and essential oils brings a fresh aura of growth and community to the Manasota area.
“We grow at Geraldson, which is organic, so we provide some of it,” Christa Leonard, project manager of the GreenStream Mobile Market, and operations manager of Geraldson Community Farm, said. “And then we source from other farms in the area, like Homestead Hydroponic […] and Little Pond Farm out in Bushnell.”
After working as a therapist for nine years, Leonard started volunteering at Geraldson Community Farm. She fell in love with the outdoor physical labor and eventually fell even move in love with the community aspect of the farm.
“It allowed me to really get out into the community by starting a mobile marker,” Leonard said.
“Personally […], we didn’t have access to the amount of people we [would have] liked to because we weren’t able to get into large scale markets,” she said when asked about the initial goals for creating the mobile market. “And then for the community we wanted to serve a demographic that necessarily doesn’t get out to farmer’s markets or doesn’t have access to fresh food. And then for other farmers, we wanted to be able to work together and collaborate and kind of create a bond where we help each other out. So it was kind of a three-fold project that kind of helped everybody.”
Be sure to check out the community-engaging produce-on-wheels every Friday outside of Sudakoff from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. The mobile market accepts cash, credit, debit and EBT transactions.
Information for this article was gathered from bradenton.com and geraldsoncommunityfarm.org