These Farm Markets and Gardens Are Inspiring Health on America's Trails
This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Rails to Trails magazine. It has been posted here in an edited format.
What’s better than a farmers’ market or community garden for providing locally grown food and encouraging good eating? Why, a market or garden next to a trail, of course! Here are three that are leading the charge for food equity, healthy lifestyles and social interaction in America’s underserved communities.
Historic Battlefield Trail: Brownsville Farmers’ Market
Located in the Mitte Cultural District along the Historic Battlefield Trail in Brownsville, Texas, and operated by the Brownsville Wellness Coalition in partnership with the city and the UT School of Public Health, this farmers’ market has been recognized for excellence by the Texas Department of Health and the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission.
Open every Saturday morning, the market—which receives 400+ visitors weekly—provides healthy food access in an area with high rates of obesity and chronic disease and limited access to local produce. Today, free space is provided to more than 33 vendors that sell items such as fruit, vegetables, farm eggs, fresh herbs and coffee. The market also hosts artisans and crafters in collaboration with the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, and offers a variety of free programs, including children’s activities, gardening classes and yoga at 8 a.m.
Families that have prequalified for two food-assistance programs—Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps)—can receive extra matching dollars for the market.
Jones Falls Trail: Druid Hill Farmers’ Market
This farmers’ market, located adjacent to the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park along the Jones Falls Trail in Baltimore, was strategically situated to serve families with limited food options and transportation challenges—including lack of access to a vehicle—restricting their access to two larger farmers’ markets active on weekends.
Open by Friends of Druid Hill Park (in cooperation with the Baltimore Recreation and Parks Department) each Wednesday evening from June to October, the market contains 30 to 40 vendors selling healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, honey and eggs; and a variety of free activities, including yoga classes, a free biking program, a concert series, children’s story time, free book giveaways, an outdoor recreation program with the Maryland Zoo and access to the Rawlings Conservatory. The market is also a SNAP merchant, has a matching program with both SNAP and WIC, and has a coupon program for seniors.
Richmond Greenway: Urban Tilth
Along the Richmond Greenway in California, the nonprofit Urban Tilth is making healthy—and delicious—fruit, berries and produce available to hundreds of trail users per day through a two-block “Greenway Community Garden” (Sixth Street) and 84-fruit-tree “Edible Forest Garden” (16th Street).
Serving some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Richmond, the year-round garden and forest—which are sponsored by foundation grants—are free to all and are maintained by local volunteers as well as community youth who are hired as part-time gardeners. To date, more than 1,600 people have participated in the variety of community programs offered through the sites, including volunteer days, gardening classes, pie bake-offs and even a medicinal tea workshop.
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