The Daily Yonder writes about life in rural America. Recently they posted a story about how one community in Letcher County Kentucky went from food desert to thriving farmers’ market.
The story started with recognizing the problem…
Residents of Letcher County became more aware of this health disparity with the release of a report by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That study identified southeast Kentucky as one of the worst areas for nutrition in the nation. It is also among the unhealthiest and poorest.
Facing the waning coal economy with the increase in job loss and seeing the physical and emotional health of their community in a dire state, a group of small-time growers, artisans and small business owners met over a period of several months to form the Letcher County Farmer’s Market. The market’s opening day on July 6 was a success.
And an interesting history of trial and error…
There have been five attempts in the past,” West said. “In talking with people that were involved with those attempts, there was a lack of planning and direction. One market included resellers of produce, which actually goes against the local farmers’ market vision. This is discouraging to local growers who have worked hard to bring their harvest to market. It also takes away many of the advantages that a local market has to offer.
“The other problem was not getting growers involved from the onset and sharing the vision of the market with them,” West said. But this time around was different, West said, because “from the beginning, [we] compelled growers to think like a farmer that is going to have some income from their efforts.”
“Another key element not included in the past was the marketing,” he said. “This time, people were much more aware of it.”
We offer this as an encouraging story to others who are interested in promoting health, nutrition and a thriving community. You don’t always think of rural areas are food deserts but as the story demonstrates, it happens. We think that we can minimize food deserts and maximize change by educating today’s youth on the importance of nutrition and good health.