The Veggie Truck is parked next to St. Luke United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, and in the church’s backyard Brett Heimlich and Remer Brinson drop a long wooden box next to others that will become a raised planting bed and activity area.
Loretta Adderson of Adderson’s Fresh Produce sits next to a green tent where she will be selling her organic wares when the Veggie Truck Market begins Tuesday.
Adderson is explaining to the uninitiated what a “hoop house” is.
“It’s like a greenhouse, but you plant directly in the soil instead of in pots,” she said. “We had tomatoes in there earlier but it got very, very cold for too long and they died. But they grow a lot faster. We have some strawberries that are ready now.”
That draws an appreciative “Mmmmm” from market manager Jenny Jia.
“I love spring strawberries,” said Jia, a second-year medical student at Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
The market, which will be held every Tuesday at St. Luke, is an outgrowth of a project last year that saw the Veggie Truck tooling around Harrisburg providing greater access for residents to get fresh fruits and vegetables. The new market will do even more than that. It is partnering with a group called Wholesome Wave Georgia that will allow it to double the amount purchased with federal or state food stamps, said Harrisburg advocate Brinson. That will help its customers overcome what is often a price barrier to purchasing healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, and studies show it can also help establish a good habit, he said.
“Even after markets stop doubling the food, the same people continue to come back and shop at the market because at that point they’ve realized all of the added benefits above and beyond sheer finances,” Brinson said.
It also can mean changing perspective and rediscovering the joy of healthy foods, said Kim Hines of Augusta Locally Grown, an online market that is also participating in the Veggie Truck Market.
“I think we’re naturally designed to derive a great deal of pleasure from food as humans,” she said. “Moving back toward eating things that are good for us while we are enjoying them is something everyone should be able to participate in.”
Hines is helping to bring farmers such as the Addersons on board, and the farm is responding by adding 10 acres so that it will farm between 25 and 30 acres near Keysville, Ga. The farm already does a good business through Augusta Locally Grown and other local farmers’ markets but sees the potential for more through the Veggie Truck Market.
“This market here we’re hoping that we’re going to get a good pull from,” Adderson said.
Hines said she believes the Adderson farm is the only certified organic farm in the immediate Augusta area but others are working their way toward that certification. Adderson, who grew up on the farm she now tills, says it has always been the way she and her husband, Sam, have done things.
“Every place I’ve gone I’ve had an organic garden,” she said. Hines said there is “not enough” farms like theirs but there is some interest building in Augusta around locally grown food.
“There’s a wonderful slow but steady flow of young people coming back to Augusta who want to get into this,” she said. “It’s a matter of connecting them up with resources: land, equipment and knowledge. It’s not something that you just pass down to generations anymore. People choose this for themselves as opposed to being thrown into it by their families.”
The key might be connecting that want with a need that is right there in Harrisburg, Jia said.
“The cool thing I think about this project is it is hopefully not just a need in this community but it is also allowing community members here to connect with another group, the farmers,” she said. “And for them to support each other together, which I think is awesome.”