You don’t have to wake up early on Saturday mornings to buy locally grown foods. Creative farmers have found a way to bring their produce to you.
A spinoff of food trucks, mobile farmers markets are stocked with the same farm-fresh produce, meat and eggs you’d find at traditional farmers markets. Putting the market on wheels allows farmers to move between locations, increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce.
Here are three mobile markets that have taken their wares on the road:
Revival Foods: In an effort to make local food more accessible in Savannah, Ga., Revival Foods launched its mobile market, Farm a la Carte, this spring. The farmer-founded, farme- run mobile market stocks fresh produce, meat, eggs, nuts, cheeses, jams, jellies and sauces — all produced by farmers in south Georgia, including LJ Woods Farm, Bethesda Gardens, Flat Creek Lodge and Walker Organic Farms.
The truck, a retrofitted cargo trailer designed by students from Savannah College of Art and Design, pulls up at organic restaurants, schools and parking lots throughout Savannah on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and parks at the Forsyth Farmers Market on Saturdays. Scheduled stops are posted on its website and Facebook each week.
“Not everyone goes to the farmers market and buys a week’s worth of food, says Bradley Taylor, farmer and co-founder of Farm a la Carte. “We wanted to address the need for midweek access to farm-fresh food and make it convenient for people to find locally grown products.”
Shoppers can place online orders and pick them up from the mobile market or treat Farm a la Carte as a roving supermarket, stopping by to pick up dinner fixings or an afternoon snack.
“Like a small grocery store, we offer the convenience of retail with the soulful, funky feel of a farmer-run venture,” Taylor says.
Mobile Market: A retrofitted school bus stocked with farm-fresh produce hit the roads in Washington D.C. in 2012 and is a regular
The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture dispatched the supermarket on wheels to local food deserts to increase access to fresh foods. The mobile market makes eight stops per week, throwing open its doors to offer veggies, fruit, meat, milk and eggs at schools, parks, low-income housing sites and wellness centers throughout Washington D.C. and Virginia.
“The Mobile Market … not only serves as a physical link between farmers and the areas that lack food access, but it is [also] a visual representation of the better food and nutrition movement that helps raise awareness every time it hits the streets,” Michael Babin, co-founder of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture told the Washington Post.
While most of the produce was grown at Acadia Farm, Mobile Market also stocks products from local farms, including Helen’s Hens, White House Meats and Moo-Thru.
In addition to selling fresh produce, Mobile Market provides shoppers with simple, inexpensive recipes to prepare their farm-fresh foods. The market accepts payment from several government-assistance programs, such as WIC and SNAP, and participates in a bonus bucks program, matching these benefits up to $10.
Gorge Grown: The Columbia Gorge might be an agricultural area but most of the towns in the region, which spans five counties in Oregon and Washington, are too small to support farmers markets.
“Many of these towns don’t even have full-service grocery stores,” explains Rebecca Thistlethwaite, director of Gorge Grown, a non-profit promoting local food. “Residents often have to drive 50 miles round trip to go to buy their groceries.”
Gorge Grown came up with a solution: a mobile market that brought fresh produce to food deserts in the region. In 2008 the organization partnered with local farms to fill a truck with fruits and veggies and travel to sites in small towns around the Gorge as a mini market. As demand increased, more farmers turned to Gorge Grown to sell their produce and more requests came from local communities wanting to be included in mobile market stops.
With the help of a $25,000 grant from the USDA, Gorge Grown is retrofitting a refrigerated truck that will hit the road this fall. The Veggie Express will travel to five communities, stopping at schools and community centers to sell produce along with meat and eggs.
“We want to focus on staple crops like green beans, peas, tomatoes, corn, apples and pears that we know people are familiar with; our goal is to increase access to fresh foods, not try to convince people to try [offbeat] vegetables like kohlrabi,” Thistlethwaite says. “We’ll pull in, sell for 30 minutes and then pack up and head to the next town.”