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farmers’ markets

This spotlight is a feature in a series of the USDA Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program (CFP). Grantees are doing some of the most innovative and collaborative projects to change local and regional food systems. WhyHunger’s Food Security Learning Center — also funded by a CFP grant — is profiling these organizations through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real flavor of what the projects look like and how they’re accomplishing their goals. Up today:  Mariposa Community Health Clinic, Nogales, AZ. Story and pictures by David Hanson.

mariposa community health

The border town of Nogales, AZ has two lives, but they aren’t Mexican and American. Those two worlds seem to flow into one another on a street-level basis. Less so than before the border fever hit full pitch, but residents still go “across the line” for a shopping trip or a meal or to see family and friends.

The alternative life in Nogales is that of the sometimes tangible, sometimes invisible presence of the Border Patrol. They ride mountain bikes through the streets. Their white and green trucks sit in the shade of cottonwoods and oaks. White-shirted, holstered men and women stand at street corners, and a fence seems to cut through every vista – across the railroad tracks, mohawking up the dry hill behind the retro façade of the business district, at the end of every north-south road. It’s crude line that appears atop a hill, then dips into a gulch, defying all geographic logic.

But life goes on along Morley Avenue. Pop music blares from stores selling cheap Chinese-made shoes, t-shirts, soccer balls, and stereos. It’s not Margaritaville souvenir-land, rather the downtown commercial zone buzzes with everyday commerce: work clothes, school clothes, baby clothes, go-to-the-movies clothes, birthday party outfits, quinceañera dresses and suits. And there’s no shortage of irony in Nogales. Less than a mile from the heart of downtown, over 1/3 of America’s Central American-imported produce enters the country on refrigerated trucks destined to supermarkets from New York to Seattle. Yet downtown Nogales lacks a grocery store with fresh produce. That is starting to change. Every Friday since April 2013, on the edge of this massive old-world-new-world commerce zone, sits a little cluster of food vendors under pop-up tents that ruffle in afternoon winds.

mariposa community healthA lot of small, downtown farmer’s markets can feel like speed dating. You walk to each booth, say hello to the vendors, eye the fruit for ripeness, vivid color, price. You might pick one or two and squeeze it. You might just walk right past the booth with a passing glance. The downtown Nogales Mercado is brand new and it’s still trying to settle in. There’s the grass-fed meat booth, the handicraft booth, the queso fresco booth, the young couple selling, this week, tornillos (little salted dough spirals stuffed with ham), then the honey, jellies, and woodwork booth, the organic produce guys, and the Tohono O’odham tribe’s legumes, squash, herbs, starters, and greens from their farm at San Xavier, south of Tucson on the Nation’s traditional farmland at the edge of the Santa Cruz River.

Throw in the Vietnamese food cart permanently parked in the lot and the market makes for an eclectic buffet considering its modest, fledgling beginning.

Read the full profile at Community Voicesa WhyHunger digital storytelling site showcasing voices of leaders and communities across the country on the front lines of food justice.


Our great friend Just Food has worked for years to build a more just and regional food system in and around New York City, by supporting community gardeners, local farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) program, neighborhood-based food education and much more. Now, with funding from the USDA Risk Management Agency, they’ve brought us ten beautiful video snapshots of the farmers in their network. “We’d love it if everyone could get a chance to see their farmers in action on the farm,” Just Food says, “but we know that busy New Yorkers don’t always have the time to get out of the city.”

We’re thrilled that these short films have brought the farms to us on this December day. Enjoy!

Click the photo of Farmer Bill Halsey to watch the films. 



Our partner, David Hanson, crackerjack freelance writer and multimedia producer based in Seattle, WA, is on a nation-wide journey to document and share the stories of innovative USDA Community Food Projects around the country.  This is how David describes the Community Food Projects program, the types of projects the program supports and their  impact in each community:

There are hundreds of these programs around the country. And exponentially more people who have benefited from them. Trickle down, I guess. But not through the kinds of stratified layers of class that Reaganites applaud. I’ve noticed so far that these grants plug directly into small-scale projects that bring food to people. A few have sputtered and faded since the money flow ran out years ago. I call executive directors who weren’t even on staff when the grant was running and have no idea of its present manifestation, if any. But the majority of the CFP-funded projects are still alive or have evolved into new forms, a luxury of being focused and nimble and directly linked to the communities they are meant to support.

Most of the projects are small. As small as a handful of youth managing twelve shelves of fruit and produce in three corner stores of West Oakland, a community of 25,000 residents with one grocery store and fifty-three liquor stores. Or a parent of elementary school children managing an after-school produce stand at the Martin Luther King Jr School, also in West Oakland. The woman boasted of encouraging a young girl to try an orange for the first time: “It tastes like a Starburst,” she’d told her. The girl tried the pink-flesh orange that grew a few counties away and she was hooked on fresh fruit.

Or as small as Maria and her kids tending, harvesting, and selling the fruit their husband/father planted twenty years ago. Soil Born Farms is a non-profit in Sacramento that supports and encourages sustainable growers and farm education programs throughout the city. In 2006 the farm manager Randy heard about a man selling peaches at a crazy low price at one of the city farmer’s markets. Randy found the man and the man invited Randy to his orchard.

To read the organizational profile, including the full story of Maria, Carlos, Randy and Soil Born Farms, visit WhyHunger’s CFP database.   And don’t miss the vibrant portraits and gorgeous photos from his adventures on David’s blog, Meeting People.



WhyHunger participated in yesterday’s “tweet out” (#KYF2) hosted by USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative and Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan during a White House live stream event to release the results of a 3-year project called “Compass.”  The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a comprehensive report with an accompanying interactive map cataloging USDA’s work in local and regional food systems across the U.S.

Know Your Farmer, Known Your Food Compass

USDA unveils the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.

The Compass is meant for farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, community leaders, and consumers to learn about how the USDA’s 17 agencies invest in and support local and regionally-produced food and the rebuilding of local food and farm economies.  According to the USDA’s website: “The Compass is an online multi-media narrative with stories, pictures, and video about USDA’s support for local and regional food systems and an interactive map of USDA-supported local and regional food activities in all 50 states. With the Compass, you can navigate USDA resources for local and regional food; meet farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities in your state that are participating in local food chains; and learn about local and regional food projects across the country.”

[read entire article…]