The Letcher County Farmers Market opens this Saturday, June 14th with the leadership of Co-Market Managers, Hilary Neff and Abby Maggard.    Partnerships, solid relationships and cooperation are the building blocks for most any successful project and our Farmers Market continues to build on this foundation.

Letcher County Farmers Market was fortunate to participate in Community Farm Alliance’s Farmers Market Support Program in 2013.    Although, the FMSP was administered and led by Community Farm Alliance, Grow Appalachia was also one of the partners in making this program possible.   The FMSP provided market development workshops, access to the Double Dollar’s Program, support in obtaining WIC vouchers and beginning the process for accepting SNAP benefits.    Another major benefit of being a participant in the program is providing matching funding for a market manager position.    In our case, Letcher County Farmers Market is fortunate to not only offer Double Dollars, but Double Managers as well, by having Co-Managers, Hilary and Abby.  Either of these could have handled on their own, but as our market is new and we are still learning how to best support the growers, they opted to work together, each bringing their own unique skills set to the market.

Abby was a regular at the market last season, supporting her father, Don Maggard, and all of the growers in any way she could help, be it sharing flowers w/others, trudging across the street to carry and  loan a table to a grower who needed it, sharing homemade goodies at our meetings or staying at the Farmers Market Booth at the Mountain Heritage Festival to raise funds for the market.   Abby attended the Farmers Market Workshop meetings in Berea and has worked hard to learn how she can best promote the Farmers Market in Letcher County.  A successful market is more complicated than I originally thought.   Although, no task is more important or necessary than the growers who bring the produce.   Also, when we get Abby, we get her wonderful boys too, who carried vegetables home to customers who needed help, always willing to “run and fetch” for any of the growers and help w/tent set up and take down each Saturday.   How deeply committed these three generations of gardeners and gardener lovers goes was evident this weekend at the Seedtime Festival, when her youngest son, Landon, dug deep in his pocket and dropped $7.56 in the jar for raising matching funds for the Double Dollars program.     If you are reading this and feel inclined, feel free to match his donation.  I’m pretty sure it was about 100% of the money had access to on this hot day.  Abby will bring a strong work ethic, local appreciation and unique charm to the Farmers Market.    Welcome Abby!   We look forward to seeing your special touch at the Letcher County Farmers Market.

Hilary, a recent graduate of Oberlin College with an emphasis in Food Justice and Sustainable Communities, works with the Appal-TREE project in Whitesburg and was already involved in many aspects of promoting access to healthy foods, including working on SNAP benefits being accepted at the Farmers Market, was a natural choice to serve as  Co-Manager for the Letcher County Farmers Market.   Hilary grew up in California, but made several visits to the mountains during her college to work with school gardens in Harlan.   Hilary also works with local schools in the area in promoting school gardens through Mountain Garden Initiative.   Sometimes, I am skeptical when a person not “born and raised” here decides to live here and often ask why?   The better question is why not?   Whitesburg and the surrounding communities are a wonderful place for young people to grow into their adult self.    Hilary also attended the FMSP workshop trainings and is working hard to make the market a success for our growers and community.     Hilary will bring a fresh perspective to the market and an eagerness to make the market innovative, festive and a great experience for any who are a part of the market.

I wanted to share this as so many good things are happening in Agriculture in our area that have their deep roots in our people who have a long tradition of raising their own food, not only providing for themselves, but their friends and neighbors.   The hope is that the Farmers Market will become a new tradition in our community that will add another layer to the many good things happening in our area.  The reemergence of the the agriCULTURE movement in our community appreciates the support  received from Grow Appalachia and Community Farm Alliance in making a powerful difference in our community as we too grow into our best community.

Come out and meet our new market managers, Abby and Hilary at the market this Saturday, June 14th in the City Parking Lot by the Veteran’s Museum from 9:00-1:00.