Bringing everyone to the table with Reality Ministries

Reality Ministries has been a recipient of the Durham Farmers’ Market’s
Wednesday Donation Station since the fall of 2013, and the results of the past 
year have been incredible. At that time, Reality Ministries was serving one lunch 
a week, and fresh local vegetables rarely graced the plate. That quickly changed. 
Since the partnership began, daytime participants from Reality Ministries 
regularly serve as volunteers at the Donation Station, where all of the fresh food 
collected is used in the community center lunches. Reality Ministries has 
expanded their food program to offer daily, home cooked lunches. They now 
cook so much that they have started purchasing local produce on top of the 
donations they receive as a result of their expanded efforts, and they will soon be 
building out a new kitchen to handle increased use. 

Reality Ministries is a faith-based community organization that creates 
opportunities for all people with and without developmental disabilities to 
experience belonging and relationship. Their daily programs provide a place for 
participants develop life-long friendships, and create community. Food is an 
important aspect of this. Greg Little, the head of the kitchen staff at Reality 
Ministries puts it this way. “Eating together is central to who we are at the Reality 
Center. This is because we are ordered around a sort of mutuality in our 
fellowship with one another. Some of us live with developmental disabilities and 
some of us do not -- but we all gather around the table for nourishment and 
friendship. “

To celebrate and deepen this relationship, Farmer Foodshare and Reality 
Ministries hosted a Community Meal together inviting farmers, market managers, 
Farmer Foodshare and Reality Ministries staff, participants and volunteers. “This 
past Thursday at our Community Meal, this mutuality was deepened even more”, 
said Greg Little.  “Our table expanded to include the growers of our food and 
those who make that food available to us. Our partnership with Farmer 
Foodshare has offered us the chance to become more aware of the generosity 
and work that makes each of our daily lunches possible. This partnership 
teaches us to be thankful, slowly making room for attentiveness to our food and 
relationships that reveal to us our mutuality with one another. We are so grateful 
for Farmer Foodshare.” 

Farmer Foodshare started the Community Meals as a way to deepen existing 
relationships between farmers, volunteers, and Donation Station recipients. This 
particular meal was a memorable evening full of meaningful introductions and 
enriching conversation. From all of us at Farmer Foodshare, a heart felt thank 
you to Reality Ministries for being an incredible partner.

Farm to Family at HRC in Carrboro

The Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill-Carrboro first opened in 2009 as a collaboration of Abbey Court residents, Latino day laborers, Latinas, Filipino families, African American residents, and many UNC undergraduates. The HRC operates under the goal of promoting human rights for all, and provides a wide range of services for immigrants and working poor, from after-school programs and weekly soccer games to ESL and legal advocacy.  In partnership with the HRC, Farmer Foodshare works to ensure the basic human right of access to healthy, nutritious food for all people.

Each Saturday, volunteers and participants from the Human Rights Center arrive at the Carrboro Farmers' Market early to participate in the food collection at the lively market. Their presence binds the ties between the communities by encouraging conversations and companionship around food. Together, the HRC and Farmer Foodshare volunteers pack the food donations and begin putting it into vehicles. As the market ends, farmers bring over their contributions for the day, which get added to the bounty already assembled in the vehicles. Then volunteers drive it over to the OWASA parking lot where the food gets unpacked for families to "shop". There is typically a line of families when the trucks arrive, and everyone pitches in to sort and set out the food for distribution. 

What happens here is more than just about hunger relief. It's about community building and empowerment. Nato Hollister from the Human Rights Center describes that "the fresh produce generously donated through Farmer Foodshare has allowed us to build a wonderful, empowered, participatory community with people facing food scarcity. It allows us to fill the resource gaps in our community, and enables relationship building and cross community interactions."

Food often brings people together; whether around a dinner table, or through the weekly food distribution in the OWASA parking lot with the Human Rights Center. Access to healthy food should not be a privilege, but a right. Together with the HRC, we work to ensure that right belongs to everyone. Our missions unite to combat issues of social inequality and bring people together. We are so proud to have this wonderful partnership with the Human Rights Center, and want to thank them for all that they do for the community!

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva is quoted as saying, “The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future.” Our mission at Farmer Foodshare goes beyond the simplicity of food distribution, and aims to work for issues of food equality and the human right to accessible nutritious food for all, while partnering with community organizations that work to tackle various social challenges.  Part of this goal is wonderfully realized through our connection with the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, our nonprofit recipient from the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Beautiful Branches at Wild Scallion Farm

wild scallions photo.JPG

The Saturday morning before Halloween was a hoot at the Durham Farmers Market as it hosted its first ever Vendor Costume Contest! With proceeds going to benefit the Double Bucks Program, vendors and customers alike were really getting into the spirit. Many of the vendors came to market in costume to sell their goods, while customers voted for their favorites.

Some of the best costumes were found at the table of Wild Scallions Farm. Renee Clayton donated some beautiful flowers to Farmer Foodshare for our Harvest Ball Fundraiser on Saturday night. Renee and her 7-year old daughter Eliza Mae greeted visitors with a smile and unabashedly showed off their most adorable costumes. Renee was dressed as a tree with grapevine twisted to form in the lovely shape of a headdress atop her head. Eliza Mae was a crow with a pointed orange beak and black cardboard wings. She could not help but sweetly sing, “caw-caw” to all that passed by!

We are so grateful for the beautiful fresh food and cut-flowers that Renee and Matt Clayton grow at their farm in Timberlake, NC. They have a lovely story as family and a farm, and we feel lucky that they support our work. Huge thanks to them for the lovely bouquets that colored the tables of the Farmer Foodshare Harvest Ball!

Check out Wild Scallions Farm at or follow them on Facebook! Also check out their story documented in the documentary film project, A Farming Way of Life at

October is Farm to School Month!

This week marks the beginning of National Farm to School Month! For the next month, schools and preschools across the country will celebrate the local food served in their cafeterias, the gardens in their schoolyards and the food and agriculture education happening in their classrooms. Some will engage with farm to school for the first time; others will enjoy the harvest from years of farm to school success. 

Donation Station recipients Fuel Up's Summer Gap Program provides fruits and vegetables donated by The Fearrington Farmers' Market

Donation Station recipients Fuel Up's Summer Gap Program provides fruits and vegetables donated by The Fearrington Farmers' Market

Locally, Farmer Foodshare is involved with Farm to School efforts year-round in a variety of ways. Our POP Market program provides subsidized produce to area preschools and other organizations that are feeding children, such as Child Care Services Association. The Donation Stations at area farmers' markets also provide donations to many backpack programs. Not only Is it crucial that children receive fresh healthy foods at school, but also in the time around school. We provide produce to numerous programs that supply kids with food to take home during the summer, on school breaks, and on the weekends.

The backpack programs are great because they are serving the kids most in need! Supplementing the shelf stable foods with 1-3 fresh veggies and/or fruit every week is a great way to guarantee the kids are getting at least a few servings of fresh food in their diets and they get to eat something they've probably never tried before. We've shared our Veggie Fact Sheets with them and the participants go home and share that info with their families! 

Muskie Cates from Child Care Services Association says of their partnership with Farmer Foodshare, "Many of the child care centers we serve are not only non-profits themselves but are also enrolled in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program, providing reimbursements for meals served to low income children.  So our pricing schedule for meals must stay within a very low margin. Being able to provide fresh local produce is a great way to get a variety of high quality, nutritious foods into the diet of preschool children in Durham and Orange Counties. But depending on the product, local produce can carry a premium price. So it is great to know that we can help offset that somewhat through the use of matching funds through Farmer Foodshare. It would definitely be much easier to just order all foods through one or two purveyors, so it is definitely a good incentive to take the extra effort to work local food into our program."

Fuel Up's bags to take home during the first week of their 2014 summer program

Fuel Up's bags to take home during the first week of their 2014 summer program

Some of those amazing local programs include: Panda Packs, Fuel Up, and TABLE. If you know of a program that’s looking for fresh food to include with their program please have them contact us! To support a subsidy for one or all of these programs to get more food, simply make a note when you make a gift and we'll be sure that it gets to them. We’re sure they’d appreciate your help!

Volunteer Profile: Callie of Eno River Farmers Market

Callie greets people at the market

Callie greets people at the market

Callie is only 11 years old, yet most Saturdays you will find her at the Eno River Farmers Market Donation Station, volunteering her time with Farmer Foodshare. Callie found out about the Donation Station program two years ago when shopping at the market with her mom.  She now regularly asks her mom to drop her off and pick her up each week so that she can do her part helping local families receive fresh, local, food from the market each week.

Volunteers like Callie participate at market each week to collect food donations for local families in need. All of the families have children at Central Elementary and have been identified as being at risk for hunger. At the end of the Eno River Market, Parent Resource Outreach Coordinator for Central Elementary, Darlene Hampton, picks up the food and delivers it to local families in need. Darlene takes the time out of her busy schedule to help out in this way every Saturday. She always shows up early, with a smile on her face, to pick up the donations. 

Callie says it's important for her to give back in this way “because there are so many people living in poverty and it’s cheaper to buy unhealthy food than fresh fruits and vegetables. So if I do this, it helps them more and it makes them more healthy.”

Darlene with the food all loaded up for local families

Darlene with the food all loaded up for local families

She might not be old enough to drive herself to market, but at the Donation Station Callie can help out with all of the tasks needed, including tracking and receiving both monetary and produce donations, buying food from the vendors, keeping records, and even occasionally training new volunteers with the oversight of lead volunteer, Corly Jones. From time to time if Corly is out of town, Callie is the one that trains the new volunteers and answers their questions.

Not only does Callie like helping to feed hungry families, she enjoys many different aspects of the market. “I like meeting all of the vendors and a bunch of people and then seeing them around Hillsborough. I like doing something better for society.” In her free time, Callie also volunteers at the library, and recently performed in Seussical the Musical.  The Eno River Market Donation Station is truly an example of community at its finest. From the market regulars that donate produce and money each week, to Darlene who picks up the food and delivers it to the families, to the Donation Station volunteers like Corly and Callie, they all work together to help feed hungry families in the town of Hillsborough. 

Volunteering at the Donation Station is fun for all ages, and a simple way to give back in the community. To volunteer at a Donation Station near you, send us an email at


Farmer Profile: Jones Farm


Like many producers in our area, Robert Jones didn't start off as a farmer. Although he grew up on his family's land, his first love was computers and technology, so he went off to Raleigh to work for IBM at the height of the computer boom in the eighties. But, he says, he always knew that he would eventually come back to the land. He jokes that watching Green Acres made him realize that he wanted to be a farmer when he retired, although hopefully he'd do better than the gentleman depicted in the television series. 

Rows and rows of delicious sweet potatoes

Rows and rows of delicious sweet potatoes

 Even before retirement he started preparing himself to move back to Eastern North Carolina and work the farm land that had been in his family for generations. He was in the first class of beginning farmers to graduate from the WC Breeze Farm class in 2009. He worked there on the plot of land that they provided until his retirement in 2010, when he returned to the family farm. 

 Although his parents had been tobacco farmers, no one in the family had been farming the land for some time and so it had been leased out to a larger farm across the street. When he returned he took over half of their 33 acres and has been working the land with his brother and nephews. They grow amazing Beauregard and Clemson sweet potatoes and are experimenting with sweet corn, collards, and a variety of crops in the low tunnels that they're building. 

Robert and his solar panel

Robert and his solar panel

 Robert's love of technology and learning has led to the implementation of a solar panel on the farm, which provides power for the lights in the tunnels. This has allowed them to extend the already very long Eastern North Carolina growing season. He's also recently applied to RAFI for funding to further his low tunnel projects with squash, greens and tomatoes.

 The next step for him will be to scale up his farming production and take over the other half of the family land. He’s attended classes to be able to sell to institutions, and says it seems doable, but requires significant investment in infrastructure on the farm in terms of cold storage and water usage. While he’s not there yet, he’s definitely looking to the future. He's enjoying the partnership developing with Farmer Foodshare, and is looking to plan for next season specifically for selling through the Farmer Foodshare POP Market. He'd like to base it on  what would sell best on the wholesale market. We're delighted to help him provide more variety and some top sellers for our buyers! 



T5 Farms – A Family Affair

Family photo, minus their eldest daughter who is away at school

Family photo, minus their eldest daughter who is away at school

Randy from T5 Farms didn’t start off as a farmer, or even liking the idea of farming. He was a civil engineer just looking to get some chickens for his kids. Middle daughter Faith recalls, “me and (my brother) Noah just wanted a few chickens and Dad said he wasn’t going to have anything to do with them!” She laughed, “and now look at him!”

So it all began with the chickens – they had some layers for eggs and some meat birds. They started selling at the Saxapahaw market, often supplementing their sales by selling to local markets as word spread about how delicious their chicken was.

When the bottom fell out of the housing market in 2008, Randy’s consulting work at his Graham firm was drying up and he started looking for something new to do. The family lived on land that had been in Randy’s family for generations, and his grandfather had farmed on it at one point, so they thought maybe they should give it a try. Helped out by neighbor Chris from Sunset Farms, they did everything naturally from the start, wanting to farm in a way that would be healthy for the land and their family.

It all started with the chickens

It all started with the chickens

Now they’ve gone from zero to full farm in just a few years. They have two tracts of 21 acres each, about half of which is wooded. They’ve got crops in production, along with some cows grazing on 20 acres of pasture adjacent to their land. Pasture is in such high demand around here that they’re limiting themselves to just the small number of cows that they currently have. They also have a couple of pigs that they’ve been using to clear land, which they’ve found very effective.

In the last year they’ve added a greenhouse, a high tunnel, and a pole barn, greatly increasing their capacity on the farm. This season’s abundance of strawberries has challenged their capacity already, and they’re realizing that they need a cooler for the berries. “It’s always something,” says Randy. I don’t so much have a ‘to do’ list as I have a ‘what needs to be done today’ list.”

The pigs- master land clearers

The pigs- master land clearers

But at least he’s lucky enough to have help from the whole family. Their oldest daughter is in school at NC State, but their son Noah sells at the Burlington market at daughter Faith helps out in Chapel Hill. Everyone helps out in the fields, including some of the kids’ friends, who have been called on most recently to come help pick berries.

While they still sell their chicken to The Eddy in Saxapahaw and Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in Chapel Hill, anything they have left over after markets on Saturdays goes to a restaurant close to them, the Ye Olde Country Kitchen.  But if you can get to one of their markets before everything is gone you’re sure to be treated to some delicious food!


Local Donation Stations partner with Club Nova to Provide Transformative Food

On a weekly basis, members from Club Nova visit the Chapel Hill or Carrboro Farmers’ Markets to pick up fresh, local produce donated by local farmers and shoppers at the Donation Station.  The produce is then taken to the Club Nova Clubhouse and used in the delicious and wholesome meals that culinary director Lauren Hart and member volunteers prepare twice a day for members. Over the course of the past XXX months, we have been delighted and inspired by their tales of culinary delight and transformation from community generosity.

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Fighting Hunger Quietly in Chatham County

Like many mothers facing financial restraints, Mariana* remains poised and happy around her children. Her six-year-old daughter, Daisy, doesn’t realize that her school lunch comes at no cost to her parents, or that they struggle to put a fresh meal on the table every night. What she does know is that when she trots off the school bus at 3 p.m., there is a warm after-school snack ready when she walks in the door.

In addition to those forays, Mariana relies on the food she gets from El Vínculo Hispano (the Hispanic Liaison of Chatham County), which runs a food pantry every first, third and fifth Monday of the month.

“When it’s time for El Vínculo Hispano to give away food, I don’t have to buy as many vegetables at the store because I know I can get fresh food there.”

The pantry’s fresh food offering is due in large part to a partnership with Farmer Foodshare.

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Hard Choices & Creative Solutions to Food Insecurity in Carrboro, North Carolina

“When I couldn’t serve food, I felt like one of the worst mothers in the whole entire world,” Belinda* says. “It was like, what kind of a mother am I that I cannot provide for a child. I remember thinking that.”

Making matters more difficult—neither Belinda nor her kids are satisfied with cheaper, unhealthier food. Ari considers watermelon and blueberries as his favorite foods and Luna has a fondness for strawberries. Ari often makes weekend breakfast, and considers churros, sorbet and rainbow chard in his repertoire. Although, to be fair, both kids also admitted to enjoying fast food.

Finding enough money to get these foods still isn’t easy. But Belinda never considered making compromises on the kind and quality of foods that her kids eat.

That’s where TABLE came in. The Carrboro hunger relief agency was able to help her extend the buying power of her SNAP benefits (used via an EBT card), with none of the drawbacks. “I did feel like at first, people were looking down on me. When I’d pull out the EBT card I would just feel so much shame at first,” Belinda says. “When I finally found TABLE… they are just so loving and they treated me with such high esteem.”

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