*This is the first article in our three-part Inspiring Changemaker 2022 Series, where we highlight the amazing work of some of our incredible clients and their food security efforts.*
Imagine seeing the look on someone’s face when they try a fruit they haven’t seen or even heard of before. Their eyes light up when they realize how delicious it is, and you can’t help but smile.
You’re excited to tell them that it came from a local farm. And the best part? Because they’re enrolled in SNAP,1 they get an amazing discount on everything in your mobile market. You’ve just made their day. And you’ve helped your local community in so many ways.
This is what GoFarm2 gets to do every day. They’re working hard to build a sustainable local food system in Colorado. Their approach? To strengthen and build on all points of the local food system.
We had a chance to talk with the incredible Colorado non-profit, GoFarm,3 as part of our Inspiring Changemaker 2022 Series.
Their mobile farmers’ market is a big part of their success. They found that it’s a great way to reduce many barriers to accessing fresh, healthy food that’s grown right in Colorado. Local farmers have the means to sell their produce, and residents get to enjoy fresh, affordable food at its peak.
Lindsey Hoffman, the Marketing & Fundraising Manager, explains the importance of a local food system and how GoFarm works across the spectrum of the whole system.
Jess Soulis, the Community Food Access4 Program Manager, tells us how their mobile market has improved operations and makes it easier for GoFarm to bring food to the folks who need it.
How Food Connects Us and Why Local Food Systems Matter
GoFarm believes that food is a human right that everyone should have equal access to. They love helping people and bringing their community together by improving food access. Finding a connection through food is a great way to do that.
“Food is a way in which we’re all connected,” says Jess. “Food is so core to all of us.”
Helping to build a strong and sustainable local food system is part of GoFarm’s5 mission. And that goes hand-in-hand with having a strong community too.
“There are just so many benefits and components of having a strong local food system,” says Lindsey. It means having a strong network of local growers and demand for locally grown food. It also means that people can access and afford that food too.
People get to know their farmers6 and their food, and the farmers know who they’re growing for. There’s a bigger emphasis on sustainable growing practices, less waste, and better soil health. And when you’re part of a local food system your money stays local.
There are health benefits too. The sooner fruits and veggies are consumed after they’re harvested, the more nutrients they still have for your body to absorb.
Another important reason to support sustainable local food systems? The pandemic has made it clear that we can’t rely so much on the global supply chain anymore.
Keeping it local “helps keep communities resilient against global issues that might come up, which is something we have faced a lot in the past two years,” Lindsey tells us.
She adds that “having that local source for food is important,” and that “it can really bring people together and create community.”
Why GoFarm Chose to Go “Mobile”
For GoFarm, the whole idea of going “mobile” was to reduce barriers for Coloradans with limited food access.
They’ve built great community partnerships to help ease the burden of transportation, convenience, cost, and stigma for lower-income residents.
They want people to know that the mobile market, and the local food system, are for them.
GoFarm partners with area Head Starts, communities for older adults and people living with disabilities, and other community organizations.7 Jess tells us that “relationship-building is huge in what we do.”
Often community groups approach GoFarm looking to partner with them. They see the value that GoFarm offers and want those benefits for their residents.
They always make sure to have a lot of fun and to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. The mobile market staff is always making new friends and they have loyal, repeat customers who love the whole idea of a mobile market.
Lindsey adds that the GoFarm Mobile Market8 is a successful part of their Community Food Access program “because it’s so visible and it’s just a fun environment.”
Doing More and Reaching More People With Their Mobile Farmers’ Market Truck
GoFarm bought their mobile market truck from The Farmers’ Truck in 2020. Before that, they had been doing pop-up style markets since 2018.
But, as Jess explains, they “had hit capacity in terms of how much we could do without increasing our staff.” The pop-up markets were taking up a lot of time and energy to set up and tear down.
Jess explains that “we really want to be able to provide really good customer care and a fun environment.” So they went on the search for a better way of doing things.
GoFarm was introduced to The Farmers’ Truck by Andy Ollove from California’s Fresh Approach. “He was really helpful,” says Jess. His knowledge and experience with food access and mobile markets “helped us make our decision pretty easily,” she adds.
Andy told them how the Farmers’ Truck vehicles are custom-made for organizations like GoFarm. Jess says “that made it very appealing for us,” knowing that the Farmers’ Truck has been operating mobile markets for a long time and knows the challenges.
GoFarm’s mobile farmers’ truck has resonated with so many people from all walks of life.
“People are really excited about it,” says Jess. “Having the truck, we saw a lot more people driving by and stopping.” They’re curious about the truck, what it’s all about, and what GoFarm is up to. “I love that people do that,” Jess remarks.
It’s a good feeling for the people at GoFarm, knowing that the truck is having a positive impact.
The GoFarm Mobile Market’s Impact on the Community and the People They Serve
“Chuck the GoFarm Truck,” as their mobile farmers’ market is affectionately called, hosted 65 individual market events during its 2021 season. Being in Colorado, their mobile market season is typically from June to October, but eventually, they’d love to be able to run it all year round.
Having the mobile market has allowed them to reach about 400 households last year alone.
“We’re able to do more,” says Jess. With Chuck the GoFarm Truck they can now do two markets a day where before it was way too hard with a pop-up. “We’re able to reach more people that way,” she adds.
Plus the kids love Chuck! They have a step stool that they let the kids use so they can check out all the great produce on display. They find that it’s a great way to get kids involved and excited about making healthy choices. What parent wouldn’t love that?
One of their weekly markets is at the Jefferson County Head Start. A lot of lower-income families bring their kids there for preschool. It’s a great opportunity for GoFarm to connect with the community and help families with small children create healthier eating habits.
They’ve also been doing bi-weekly markets at a couple of affordable housing communities for older adults and people living with disabilities in the area. Jess remarks on how great it is seeing people interact with each other at their mobile market. It seems to naturally bring people together.
She also mentions that “there are all kinds of opportunities for people to share recipes,” and other helpful tidbits. “It makes things fun,” Jess adds.
How the Mobile Farmers’ Market Helps GoFarm Achieve Its Mission
Having the mobile market allows GoFarm9 to communicate directly with the communities they serve. They can better see the challenges that people face, look at the specific needs of each community, and figure out how to improve things.
It also gives GoFarm the chance to teach folks about where their food comes from. They share information about local farmers and the food they grow. Forming connections between farmer and consumer is important to GoFarm’s mission.
With the mobile farmers’ market, “there’s a lot of really cool benefits that go beyond the access,” remarks Jess.
Lindsey adds that “with the mobile market too, it just kind of highlights all of that other work to engage people because it’s so visible and it’s just a fun environment.”
They can show everyone how to participate in and benefit from a sustainable local food system.10
What’s Next for GoFarm
GoFarm continues to grow its operations, as more and more people are relying on GoFarm each year.
For example, in 2021, they had over $15,750 in sales with EBT & Double Up Food Bucks. That’s grown a lot since 2019 seeing as more people are now using SNAP, and the SNAP program itself has expanded because of the pandemic.
This year is all about improving and making sure they’re providing the best possible services. They just got new office space right next to one of their distribution centers, which will make things run much more efficiently. “It’s an exciting growth point for us,” says Lindsey.
GoFarm now has a full-time bilingual community liaison, “to help us continue to grow our cultural and linguistic inclusivity,” Jess explains.
Putting a bigger focus on education and giving people more information about their local food system is another goal for this year.
As for their mobile market, they hope to be able to further develop community advisory groups. This will allow them to improve the mobile market and be able to reach more people.
GoFarm’s Mobile Market is providing them with more opportunities to connect with so many communities every day. It also helps them to realize their mission of creating more food access and of strengthening Colorado’s local food system.
We are so proud to have the chance to work with GoFarm. We can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish this year!
What could a mobile farmers’ market do for your community?
If operating a mobile market is something you’ve been thinking of, we’d love to work with you too. Check out our brochure to learn more.
*Stay tuned for the next article in our Inspiring Changemaker 2022 Series, coming out in late Spring!*