Title: Senior Market Day-Catalyst for Healthy Communities

Goodbye Summer Hello Fall

As we say goodbye to the summer of 2023 and get ready to welcome fall, a lot has been happening in our little community. Mother Nature and all her creatures are beginning the last-minute preps for a long winter. The last of the harvest is in full swing. Gardens are being cleaned and cleared. The last of the produce is being picked, dug and put away for the winter. Season extension is being applied to still viable crops to get every second of the growing season in the books. The farmer’s market is winding down its regular weekly sales and preparing for the end of regular season Fall Carnival with the help and involvement of the FFA members. Fall decorations from the local gardens are making their appearance as fodder shocks, pumpkins and mums pop up everywhere. Shuck beans have made an appearance at the market with the Farm to School project members, along with the last of the corn and other fall vegetables. Fodder for fall decorations has also made its way to local sales from project members. Fall prep and season extension preparations with the crops that are still viable is in full swing as we prepare for the coming first frost dates. Project activities for this year have had in impact on our community with everything from home and school gardens, Kids Market Day, Senior Market Day, food preservation workshops, entrepreneurship in the community and at the market from Farm to School Participants and the taste testing and trying out of new healthy recipe alternatives with the crops our project participants grew this year.

Now on to our spotlight!

Senior Market Day Originates from the Owsley County Farm to School Program

The Owsley County Farmers Market thrives as a hub for local KY Proud produce and community connection. In the midst of this close-knit Appalachian community, one young Farm to School Project member, Michale Mason, is consistently demonstrating his love of farming, community and the respect and caring for his elders that has long been installed in him and in the youth of Appalachia. Michael’s dedication to fostering unity, well-being, and inclusiveness of the older generation within Owsley County has led to the creation of an annual event – the Senior Market Day with the Owsley County Health Care Center, our local nursing home.

Michale Mason

Michael Mason at Senior Market Day

The Senior Market Day is a testament to the power of intergenerational collaboration and community spirit where multiple organizations in our community (Farm to School, Owsley County Board of Education, the Owsley County Future Farmers of America Chapter and the Owsley County Farmers Market) all work together.

It all began when Michale Mason, a longtime youth member of the Owsley County Farmers Market, a member of the Owsley County Farm to School project, and the Owsley County FFA Chapter, saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between generations and enhance the quality of life for local seniors, a trait long valued by our mountain people.

The Journey Begins
Michale embarked on a journey to make his vision a reality. The first step was to secure funding for this ambitious project. Michale’s resourcefulness and dedication led to successful fundraising efforts within the community. Local residents rallied behind Michale’s vision, recognizing the importance of bringing joy, healthy fresh food and returning happy memories of their youth to the residents of our local facility.

With funding secured, Michale, the Owsley County Farmers Market and the Owsley County Health Care Center were able to create a memorable experience for the senior residents. On the designated day, seniors were transported to the market by Daniel Boone Transit where they were greeted at the market with shopping allowances to purchase fresh, locally grown Kentucky Proud produce and vegetables from market vendors. Each resident who attended picked out their own favorite fresh foods and selected something that they could take back with them to include the residents who could not attend the market. This not only supported local farmers, including the Owsley County Farm to School participants but also ensured that the seniors had access to nutritious, high-quality food, a fun filled excursion and activities back at the center for every resident who could not physically attend the market themselves.

The Day Begins
Preparations were made. Tables are set up. Volunteers are at the ready…..The bus pulls up and the seniors begin to disembark with smiles of anticipation on their faces…..Residents and volunteers visit each and every vendor at the market, talking with the farmers, examining fruits and produce. Stories are told about past gardens, varieties of bean, corn and tomatoes are discussed with fond memories and some of the discussed heirloom varieties are picked out for purchase. Fresh air, sunshine, companionship, storytelling and reliving of fond memories and new memories are sharded by all. Some old acquaintances are renewed, new acquaintances are made with residents not from the area, children of some of the more local residents’ friends are introduced and family lineage are discussed as with almost all intergenerational conversations in this area. Smiles are on every face, both young and old, and the project has succeeded in having the market be much more than just a place to purchase fresh local food!

Back at the Health Care Center the Activities Continue
The day was not just about shopping; it was a celebration of community. After picking out their favorite fruits and vegetables, the seniors enjoyed a “bean breaking” gathering back at the center where all interested residents got to have an old-fashioned bean breaking, fostering camaraderie and storytelling reminiscent of their deep rooted Appalachian traditions. The festivities continued with a watermelon party, where laughter and shared memories filled the air.

Watermelon Party Prep

Senior residents’ prep for Watermelon Party

The Grand Finale
The grand finale of Senior Market Day was a heartwarming meal treat of home cooking hosted at the Owsley County Health Care Center. This meal wasn’t just about nourishing bodies; it was about nourishing souls, uplifting spirits and creating lasting bonds between generations, sharing stories and experiences.

Senior Market Day Bean Breaking

Senior Marke Day Bean Breaking

Event Sustainability
One of the most remarkable aspects of this event is its sustainability. Michale Mason and the Owsley County Farmers Market have made it a priority to ensure that Senior Market Day becomes an annual tradition. The involvement of organizations with the project like the local FFA chapter and members of the Owsley County Farm To School Program further strengthens the foundation of this event, helping to guarantee its continuation for years to come.

In the heart of Appalachia, the Senior Market Day showcases the dedication to creating a brighter future for Owsley County. It helps our young Farm To School participants shine as an example of youth leadership, youth entrepreneurship and community unity, given an opportunity to develop with youth and multigenerational membership and mentors in the Farmers market, Owsley County FFA, and The Owsley County Farm to School Project. Through Senior Market Day, the community has found a way to celebrate its rich heritage while embracing the promise of a healthier community and continuing the almost lost value of our elder populations of rural Kentucky to a more connected tomorrow. This heartwarming event, and all of the success of the Owsley County Farm to School program reminds us all that positive change starts at the grassroots level with our young families and with our youth, showing that the spirit of Grow Appalachia is alive and thriving in Owsley County.
We encourage you to think about this project and answer this question: What small thing can you do in your little section of this amazing planet this fall to encourage a multigenerational activity with your family or your neighborhood. It may be something as simple as assisting with fall decorations, taking an elder to a fall event, to a ballgame or sharing a home cooked fall food with an elder near you……