My project is a self-sustaining farmers market at a local elementary school. I did this for two reasons. One is in the spirit of cooperative principle #7, concern for community. As a kid, one of my elementary teachers noticed the unhealthy snacks I was buying from a local corner store every morning. She began buying me fruits from a local farmers market if I agreed to not buy snacks at the corner store. She helped stop me from developing childhood diabetes. That small gesture really impacted my life leading me here. Being a part of Mandela Grocery Cooperative allows me to help folks in my community like my teacher helped me. The second reason is to support small local BIPOC farmers as much as possible. I planned to source as much produce as possible from local farmers.
I partnered with a local elementary school, Prescott Elementary. I worked with the Prescott Family Team (their PTA) and faculty to make the farmers market a reality. This all started happening when Oakland, and pretty much the rest of the world, went into lockdown due to COVID-19. It brought up a lot of questions. How was school going to change? Would the principal support this during a global pandemic? Will people come? Can this work with our “new normal”? Even though it was a bit discouraging, we continued planning with COVID-19 precautions in mind. The farmers market was to happen every two weeks within the school calendar. We had the first farmers market near the end of 2020 during packet pickup. This was the only time we had due to the campus being closed. It turned out good. I was able to see some familiar faces from the community and got to meet some new ones. As time went one the farmers market started to become a welcome presence during packet pick up.Parents and people in the community started to look forward to the farmers market.The kids knew if they asked they could always get some fruit for free.
Overall the farmers market was small and mighty. We had to slightly change course but still made it happen. If in person school resumes, we hope to run the farmers market at a higher capacity. Hope to see it grow into something larger with community vendors and including items from Prescott’s garden. I’m grateful I was able to foster the connections I had and make more during my time at Prescott Elementary. I’m happy Mandela Grocery and Prescott Elementary have grown together as community allies and hope to do nothing but strengthen it moving forward.