Want to know what Farmer Foodshare does? Ask Michelle Morehouse. She has seen it from many sides. First, she worked for Take and Eat Food Pantry in Eastern Chatham County. She loved the sense of community: people caring for each other, as she provided groceries to neighbors in need. She saw first hand the difference it made when Farmer Foodshare and Take and Eat became partners.
“We had had a limited amount of fresh produce,” she said. “A dedicated volunteer had a large garden and shared what he could. The food bank had a little, but by the time it got to us, it was often past its prime. Then came Farmer Foodshare and the Donation Station. What a difference! Our weekly food distribution coincided with the Fearrington Farmers Market. So food collected at the Donation Station came right to us and went out the door with very grateful recipients. The food was just hours out of the field!”
There was one group still missing out, Michelle shared. “The seniors who came to our morning distribution were missing that food fresh out of the field. Then Farmer Foodshare started the POP Market program. We could afford the POP Market produce and it was fresh, local, and received with joy!
“Our seniors were a group of regulars. They looked out for each other and shared helpful hints and recipes. With the advent of fresh produce, they shared stories about childhood meals: collards flavored with a little fatback, hot-out-of-the-oven sweet potatoes with a dab of butter melted in the middle.”
This sense of sharing and community was the perfect setting for Farmer Foodshare’s Food Ambassadors. Michelle told about the time the Food Ambassador came and asked,’ Who likes okra?’ Very few hands went up. “Too slimy!” Folks said. So the Food Ambassador did a cooking demo and shared the results. Crisp, yummy, perfectly cooked okra. The dish got rave reviews, and many of the seniors took home the recipe and fresh okra so they could make it themselves.
So Donation Station, POP Market, and Food Ambassadors: you’d think Michelle Morehouse had experienced it all, but there is more. Michelle was offered the position of Farm Manager at the Farm at Penny Lane, a part of UNC’s Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. The farm is an idyllic setting with two gardens, bees, egg-producing chickens and more. It serves to improve the health and well being of people with mental illness, addictions, and intellectual challenges and volunteers. It not only provides good exercise with fresh air and sunshine. It provides good company and fresh, sustainably grown food. The Farm at Penny Lane soon found that it produced enough to share at the Center’s clinics and still have food left to sell at the Fearrington Farmers Market. They found they could donate to the Donation Stations. One good feeling! Another good feeling came when the Farm at Penny Lane found they could produce enough to sell to POP Market.
And that is what Farmer Foodshare is all about: helping each other, which helps each of us. Michelle Morehouse knows. She has seen it from many sides.