Upham's Corner Online

Winter Farmers' Market - Great Success

Posted: January 12, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Neighbors from Upham's Corner raved about the Winter Farmers' Market in Codman on opening day, Sunday, January 8, 2012 - Catherine and Aaron Larget-Caplan, Shemiram Fabian and Joanne Tuller. "Huge crowds, sold out, farmers who had come from far away - fresh, unwashed winter veggies, meat, cheeses, breads and pastry."

From Catherine: "We bought Brussels sprouts and cheeses.We went there for honey they didn't have any - maybe next time.There were at least two stands for vegetables - excellent. They had peas, onions, potatoes and celeriac - a lot of winter staples. The vegetables are unwashed because the minute you wash them, they start to deteriorate. It was fantastic."

Winter Farmers' Market
Joel Wool has worked steadily in support of the Dorchester Community Food Co-op which defined its first project as a "Winter Farmers' Market."  The Winter Farmer's market is an effort to do multiple things: Winter Farmers' Market
  • Support local businesses
  • support farmers in the Commonwealth
  • bring healthy food to the local population
  • build community by connecting people
  • make a community space that encourages cooperation and community development
 Of course Joel was in attendance on opening day.  He had pulled out all stops to gather every Dorchester community and ethnic group he could identify.That Mayor Menino participated in the ribbon cutting was important as well.

So how was opening day? "We expected a crowd - several hundred. I guess if I thought about it, I couldn't imagine getting over 400 but we had over 600 people in attendance."

There was a steady stream of people all day (12-3pm).
  • By one o'clock the bakery and pastry had sold out.
  • By two o'clock when the Mayor arrived, the veggies had all been sold.
  • Of the two farmers participating, not one speck of produce remained.
  • Stillman's, bless their heart, brought a huge amount of meat in coolers and had some left at the end of the day.
What we can't see by listening to a description of the day is the amount of effort that went into a successful opening day and what will be (Joel promises) an outstanding, Sunday after Sunday, Farmers' Market, culminating in a last Sunday just as Spring officially arrives (March 25).

Joel Wool, Community Advocate, works for Green Dorchester, the organization that funded the initial staff time for the Farmers' Market and its parent, Dorchester Community Food Co-Op.

Winter Farmers' Market The Farmer's Market is a way to get healthy food to people but it's bigger than that. It encourages a change in lifestyle and perspective that starts with taking healthy food into your body obtained from local businesses that are supported by the community. "From there it branches out," he says, "because as you make connections and ground yourself into good causes, you create community movement.

Start small, grow big but do it sustainably.Identify your initial high energy customer base but never forget representational participation.Diversity is important.

Any disappointments? Joel says: "No, just challenges. On our first day, the vast majority of the attendees were from the white, English speaking population which is a bit odd since the Farmer's Market was in Codman Square - very much, a Caribbean neighborhood.

I have to do everything I can in the way of outreach.
  • Identifying and making use of every communication channel I can think of
  • Talking to as many people as I can and
  • Figuring out how best to effectively reach other ethnic communities.
Multiple Languages

"Flyering in multiple languages sounds easy and effective but it's not that simple." Here's an example: "Do we print flyers in Cape Verdean or do we print them in Portuguese or both?"

So Joel decided to ask around at several organizations where Cape Verdean speaking people of different ages and different educational levels work (Sounds like a social science project, doesn't it??). 

What he discovered is that Cape Verdean people of different ages and different educational backgrounds from the same ethnic group may not read the same language. The middle-aged almost assuredly read Portuguese (but not always). Then if you came over to the United States after the schools were allowed to teach Cape Verdean, you and your grandfather might read Cape Verdean but your mom will read Portuguese (but it all depends). Even this changes over time.

So what language was chosen?  "We finally decided to print a double-sided flyer - one side Cape Verdean, the other Portuguese."

Personal Outreach 

"Outreach is so important," Joel says. Take the Haitian community. He is talking with every segment of the community available to him - friends, churches, Haitian radio and the Haitian list servs. He is also working through parallel channels in the Vietnamese and Cape Verdean communities.

"Some ethnic groups," he said, "have their set ways and stores and friends - where they go and where they don't go. Making friends and establishing relationships is often more important for us than a flyer that nobody reads or trusts.  As you reach out, little by little, word will spread. You want to say to these people: Hey, bring a friend."

He tells a great story:  "I've got close ties to the Haitian community, so I invited my friends, and they invited their friends. Still, the number of Haitians on opening day was not that large.  Then a woman who works at a community center, teaching ESL classes to Haitians, came up to him at the event.

"Oh this is great!" she said.  "The food is healthy and the market really good.I wanted to check it out before I brought my students. Maybe next week I'm going to bring my whole class here.'"

"That's what it takes," he said, "listening for the clues on how to establish effective lines of communication. So what are some of the steps we are taking right now?"
  • Haitian radio, friends and public list servs
  • Vietnamese TV and the Dorchester House to print and distribute flyers in Vietnamese
  • Cape Verdean media resources

Joel Wool

"What would be a failure," he said, "is if people don't ever show up.  We are not going to let that happen."

The Dorchester Community Food Co-op is an initiative, run by residents and stalwart community supporters, to build a cooperatively owned, brick-and-mortar food store in Dorchester.

So where will the brick-and-mortar food store be located? 

"It's still under discussion. A number of organizations here in Dorchester have food and arts-related plans for the different spaces that are being developed. So we are talking to them to figure out where we might go but also how that would work with their space."

The Farmers' Market is Dorchester Community Food Co-op's first full-effort project in growing a place for healthy food in Dorchester. It is being held every Sunday at the Great Hall in Codman Square from 12-3pm through March 25. 

Photo Credits

Brussel Sprouts Aaron Larget-Caplan
Joel Wool Nancy Conrad Upham's Corner News
Ribbon cutting Scot Huber, Give and Take Pictures
All others Joel Wool, GreenDorchester

Questions about the Food Co-op ?

Website/Blog dotcommcoop.wordpress.com
Email dotcommcoop@gmail.com

Joel Wool contact information

Facebook Facebook.com/JoelWool
Email jwool@greendorchester.org

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