(Our Q & A testimonial is with mobile farmers’ market customer Doug Wooley of Denver, Colorado. Doug has lived in the Juanita Nolasco apartment complex in Denver, CO since 2010. He first learned about mobile markets when he was a member of the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council, and heard a mobile market was serving east Denver and Aurora. Several years later, he found out about the GoFarm mobile market when the program began making regular stops at his apartment complex. Want to learn about The Farmers’ Truck mobile market program solution? Download our brochure!)
1. When did you start going to the GoFarm mobile market?
I started using GoFarm’s mobile market in 2018 when they came to the apartment complex with their coolers of fresh produce. We are very fortunate that GoFarm comes to Juanita Nolasco apartment complex every other week during the summer. And unless something has me away from the building during those times, I visit the market every time they are at the apartment complex.
2. What do you like most about the mobile market?
The one thing I like most about our mobile markets is that the fresh produce is literally brought to our front door. I, like many of my neighbors, have mobility challenges, and getting to and from the grocery store can be challenging. Those challenges include individual mobility challenges/barriers, transportation, and cost of produce. With GoFarm showing up right outside our front door we do not need to go far and do not need to take hours on buses or trains. And we know the quality of the food is better than some of the local grocery stores, as well as locally sourced.
3. Are there other healthy food options nearby? Or is the mobile market your best option for healthy, accessible, local food?
In order to access healthy food options, one must either have a vehicle or be willing and able to travel anywhere from a half hour to multiple hours on buses and trains. This can be quite daunting, especially for folks who have a variety of mobility challenges. There is a family dollar store nearby. However, all of the foods they sell are highly processed and often cost more than a grocery store. So when we have local fresh produce available at our front door, it increases the accessibility to healthier options/choices.
4. What is the atmosphere like at the mobile market?
The atmosphere is perhaps one of the underlining things that GoFarm and the garden club work together to create a sense of community and belonging. We have multiple people who are regulars, as well as friends and chosen family that go to the market on a regular basis. There are also neighbors from surrounding buildings that join us on a regular basis. By working together, GoFarm and the garden club try to create an environment where everyone is welcome.
Through multiple conversations throughout the years, GoFarm has done an amazing job working to make sure that there is a sliding scale pricing so people can pay what they can the day of the market. This means during the first of the month when people have a little more resources, they can pay a little bit more if they want to, and towards the end of the month, when resources are tight, they can still access food but at a lower cost. This means that individuals can still access food without shame or stigma while continuing to feed and nurture their minds, body, and spirit.
GoFarm has also taken additional steps to make sure that the markets are accessible for all abilities, including making sure that items are marked both in English and Spanish. They’ve also implemented a system in which the sliding scale budget is identifiable by either shape or color. This may not seem like a big thing. However, we are aware that there are individuals for various reasons who may not be able to read and/or comprehend English or Spanish, so this helps individuals communicate at the level that they can.
5. What’s your favorite food from the market and why?
Eggs. As the food that comes in is seasonally based, it is difficult to anticipate one particular item consistently throughout the season. However, there are always eggs, and this has been a tremendous help especially for me as it has helped me maintain some of the nutritional needs I am constantly struggling to meet.
6. What did you do for healthy food access prior to the mobile market?
Prior to the mobile markets coming to the apartment complex I would either drive or take buses and trains if I was using my power wheelchair to the local grocery store. I use my power wheelchair more on days when it is tougher to get around, and this means that I am out longer as it takes longer to get to and from the store and my options of what I can or cannot get change based on my transportation of that day.
7. Do you notice an improvement in your overall health due to the market?
Yes!!! Once the market is in season, I am able to access more fresh produce into my diet, which, of course, has a number of important nutrients to help improve my overall health. By adding different produce to my diet, I am adding things like fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are helping me build and maintain muscle mass as well as help manage pain and discomfort.
8. How about the mobile market staff? What is it like to interact with them?
It is amazing. They are compassionate, professional partners in mischief-making. Over the years, the staff has constantly made sure to improve upon each market, not only from season to season but also from market to market. They have been open to suggestions and are willing and able to make changes when and where changes need to be made. They have treated each individual with respect even if folks don’t speak the same language. And when I say mischief-making, it is about breaking down the systems that have been created and support food insecurity for individuals who are older and or live with disabilities. Together, we are breaking down and rebuilding the systems that meet the needs of the community.
9. Can you tell any anecdotes of experiences at the market that really stick out?
During the pandemic, the mobile markets were able to come out to our apartment complex. There were a number of individuals who lost access to food pantries and other food resources as the pandemic shifted and changed the models and ways food pantries could and would distribute food. This meant that a number of neighbors ended up having less access to food during the pandemic. At one point, a neighbor stopped me and informed me that had it not been for GoFarm, they would not have been able to eat that week. This individual had a number of mobility and health challenges that made getting to and from the grocery store challenging. And as we know during the pandemic, grocery stores often had empty shelves, and were even more challenging for folks with severe medical and health challenges and concerns. Although this individual eventually passed away due to their health challenges, they were able to continue to nourish their body due to GoFarm and its mobile market.
10. Why would you recommend other communities try mobile market programs for healthy food access?
I firmly believe that mobile markets should be part of every community’s fabric. I think that there is room to add additional foods, such as meats, dairy, etc. These mobile markets should be available to everyone. However, I especially believe mobile markets should be in communities that are food deserts. When individuals can access food by simply walking a few blocks, they are able to purchase food and get it home quickly and use it versus having to wait hours on a bus and hope that they get home before things go bad or melt. This also supports local farmers and food systems. This then helps make sure communities are able to thrive and not just survive.
Want to learn about The Farmers’ Truck mobile market program solution? Download our brochure!