In the corner of my eye, I saw a small blur of blonde hair running towards me at full speed: it was one of our regular attendees of the Power of Produce Club, waving his hands up in the air in a Rocky-like fashion, yelling “YAY VEGETABLES”. This was quite the transformation from a few weeks prior when the same child would not try tomatoes, one of the first taste-tests of the program.
For seven weeks this summer, the Power of Produce Club made its way to the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers’ markets, with an occasional appearance in Elizabethtown. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County introduced this program to promote accessibility to local food, nutritional wellness, and local businesses while educating children on farm to table values, agriculture and science. Throughout the summer, we ate our way through the rainbow as we tasted red carrots, orange and yellow tomatoes, mixed greens and purple string beans (do not be fooled: our attendees reported that purple string beans are actually magic beans that turn green when you cook them). If you saw us at the market you might have seen us playing with worms, doing scavenger hunts, painting tote bags or filling out our farmers’ market passports. We learned about composting, seasonality, food mapping, low-waste living, and our local farmers! Our attendees became masters at budgeting, as each child was given five dollars each week to pick out their own fruit or vegetable from our local food producers. Children went home with big smiles on their faces along with blueberries, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, corn, and tomatoes.
Our regular participants came from all over the Adirondack Park, from Vermontville to Keene Valley. Many of the families who came to the Power of Produce Club noted that they were not regular customers of the markets, but started to come because of this program. Having the club present at the farmers’ markets opened the door to talk about SNAP (formerly food stamps) and FMNP (Farmers Market Nutritional Program) benefits to families and individuals interested in learning more about food accessibility. (By the way! Did you know you can find all local food vendors that take SNAP, WIC and FMNP on the adirondackharvest.com website?) The reach of this project extends beyond our region; visiting farmers’ market managers stopped by our tent to get ideas to start similar projects at their local markets. This is just the beginning of the Power of Produce Club! We plan to offer it next year, as this year successfully connected families to their local food system, encouraged healthy lifestyles and enriched children’s connection to fresh produce! This year, we had a total of 123 visits from children and $615 in local produce was chosen and purchased by children.
Alexis Subra, 2019. Americorps VISTA Summer Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County
Thank you to CCE Essex, the Well Fed Collaborative, Big Slide Brewery and the Left Bank Cafe for contributing to this event!
We will be welcoming another Americorps VISTA volunteer for next year’s Power of Produce Club, and related programming, so share with anyone you think would be interested and get in touch!