The past week, we really enjoyed getting the chance to meet Priscilla, hear about the North Fair Oaks area and North Fair Oaks Health Center, and ask questions about the idea of implementing a Farmer’s Market. Right now we are focusing on gaining a firm understanding of what the project is and what resources we can utilize. In addition to working on setting up a follow-up meeting with Priscilla, we are asking Priscilla what additional information she wants us to read and review before our next meeting, including a more detailed description/flow chart of the organization structure of the San Mateo Medical Clinic. We are also reaching out on our own to find additional resources to better prepare us to understand the plan for the North Fair Oaks Health Center Farmer’s Market, what challenges the North Fair Oaks Health Center may face in market implementation, and how other communities have dealt with similar obstacles. In addition to reading the resources posted on Piazza, we are looking at articles about farmer’s markets in nearby areas, such as the East Palo Alto Farmer’s Market run out of the Ravenswood Family Health Clinic. In addition, we plan to talk to a representative from Collective Roots this upcoming Tuesday about the East Palo Alto Farmer’s Market about the challenges they have faced (particularly with attracting, generating customer interest, and accepting EBT and FMNP WIC checks).
In addition to familiarizing ourselves with the process of farmer’s market implementation (particularly in communities with similar demographics), we are working to list out the goals and tasks we hope to accomplish and draft our Scope of Work so we are prepared for our follow-up meeting with Priscilla. Right now, we have defined our goals to be determining the feasibility of a farmer’s market that both survives (attracting sufficient purchasing power to retain vendors and cover costs) and serves (expanding community access to affordable, health food). To answer the key question, “What items at what prices (with what additional outreach) will attract vendors and customers and expand access to affordable, health food?,” we will start by going through existing data sources and meeting with experienced individuals. Our strategies for gathering data are listed below:
- Literature Review – We will look into resources that discuss farmer’s markets in low-income and diverse community, the intersection between farmers markets and clinics/ total wellness efforts. We will also look for resources around how to conduct surveys and focus groups to better prepare us to approach the community.
- Experience of Other Bay Area Markets – We will reach out to other markets in the Bay Area to learn more about their successes, challenges, and recommendations.
- Census – To get a better understanding of the population of North Fair Oaks, we will look at the Census data.
- EBT Resources – We will also learn about the necessary technology for setting up the infrastructure to accept EBT within the farmer’s market.
- Survey Other Sources of Food – We will look into other sources of food in the area to determine what prices consumers will pay for certain items, and determine if there will be competition with the Farmer’s Market in the area.
- Data Direct From Community – We will also survey community members around what foods they buy regularly, how much money they spend on food, how many home cooked meals they eat each week, what their interest would be in attending a farmer’s market, what they would want to see at a farmer’s market, and what they would be willing to pay.
Part 2: What You Observed and Learned
Our first meeting with Priscilla was incredibly useful. The most concrete set of information we took away from the meeting was the demographics of the community. We learned that 70% are monolingual Spanish speakers, which is why it will be critical to have bilingual surveys and outreach efforts. In addition, 68% are below the 150% federal poverty line, which means it will be all the more important to look into how the farmer’s market could create a system of accepting EBT and WIC. One thing that surprised me was the extremely high rate of unemployment in the area (around 19%) compared to unemployment rates in the surrounding communities. Priscilla mentioned that a number of mental health challenges faced by the community in North Fair Oaks may be tied to this high unemployment rate, and again emphasized the North Fair Oaks Health Center’s focus on total wellness as part of their effort to combat these mental health challenges.
In addition to the specifics of the demographic data, we also gained a better understanding of the organization of the South County Clinic and their goals based on total wellness. The goal of North Fair Oaks – as detailed in the North Fair Oaks Forward Plan – is to revitalize North Fair Oaks for families of all ages. This plan involves 300+ new policies and strategies going into place, of which health and wellness is a big focus. The South County Clinic has adapted this approach through their goal of serving multiple generations within this clinic and focusing their own efforts on preventative total wellness education and resources. The South County Clinic is working on expanding patient education, including projects that encourage community involvement. Currently, the health center has a plot for a community garden, cooking demos, nutrition classes, and community outreach efforts to train community residents to help with the education piece.
It was particularly useful to hear how Priscilla envisioned the farmer’s market would fit into their preventative model for keeping families healthy. One thing that surprised me was hearing that as part of their nutrition program, based on a USDA-approved nutrition grant for teaching about healthy eating in four languages, community residents complete eight classes in two months, where after each class, participants receive a $7 voucher to buy fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market. I was surprised to hear that already, there is a deep connection between their health education and the need for a farmer’s market.
Part 3: Critical Analysis
In our meeting with Priscilla, it became clear to us that Priscilla carries out her education and community outreach work with the approach of “reciprocity with the community” in mind. From the start, Priscilla has emphasized the importance of working with the community members, and when we asked whether the community is interested in the idea of a farmer’s market, Priscilla said that although she doesn’t have statistical data about community interest, after conducting over 100 oral interviews, she has found that anecdotally, people are interested and see the need for a farmer’s market in their community. It is clear to us that Priscilla cares about serving the community’s self-identified needs, rather than imposing her own view of what would be best without taking their thoughts into consideration.
In addition, in Priscilla’s education outreach work, she talked about the importance of creating projects that encourage community involvement, using assets coming from the neighborhood. As she talked about surveying community members, she also noted that because many of the residents do not speak English, some people tend to underestimate their understanding, and emphasized that it is critical that we recognize their intelligence because they truly have important things to say, whether or not they say these things in English. This reminded me of our class discussion around truly showing respect for each community member, and how respect is really important for building relationships and collaborating on a project together.
In our reading, “Reconsidering the Margin: Relationships of Difference and Transformative Education” by Jodi Rios, one quote really stood out: “Trust facilitates a more sincere dialogue and leads to a response that reflects the actual, rather than perceived, desires of the community. The benefit of including team members who truly value the neighborhood and no longer fear it goes without saying. The transformative nature of the trust relationships, developed in the seminar through time and intimacy, provides a better context for reciprocity to emerge.” It is clear that Priscilla has already worked hard to establish trust with the community in order to create partnerships to serve the actual goals of the community, not what we think the goals should be. We are looking forward to coming in with an open-minded and respectful attitude in order to gain the trust of community members as well, so that we too can engage in community efforts through an approach based on reciprocity, and work to serve the community as we learn from them in the process.
- Sophie, Natalie, Pete