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With cash, Clarkston project can get even cooler

The local food movement in Georgia has definitely got the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That much became clear last Friday, when the USDA announced the 2012 recipients of its Farmers Market Promotion Program grant money. Eight organizations in Georgia received funding for local food projects, capturing about 7 percent of the $9 million awarded. Only two states, California and New York, had more programs acknowledged.  

Launched in 2006, the Farmers Market Promotion Program is intended to establish and expand direct producer-to-consumer marketing, including farmers markets. Administered by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, it has awarded more than $32 million.

The big winner this year in metro Atlanta is Clarkston Community Center, which was awarded $89,875 to expand the monthly Clarkston Farmers Market to a weekly operation and support the food distribution efforts of refugee farmers in the area.  

In less than a year, under the direction of food security coordinator Janice Giddens, Clarkston Community Center’s efforts to reduce hunger have grown by leaps and bounds. The center itself now stands amid an urban oasis, surrounded by community garden plots and a small fruit orchard. Giddens also coordinates a food pantry, operated by Oak Grove Methodist Church, and a food coop that purchases food from Atlanta Food Bank and distributes it, along with food from the community center garden, to participating families—many of whom are refugees. Giddens helped the CCC coordinate with another local organization, Global Growers Network, to create a CSA program supplied by local refugee farmers. And the Clarkston Farmers Market, launched this spring by CCC, holds great potential to be among the most interesting, culturally diverse markets in metro Atlanta.

“We’re working toward more healthy food getting into the hands of people who need it but who don’t necessarily have a way to obtain it,” Giddens says. The funding will allow the center to install cold-storage equipment where nearby growers can wash and keep food after they harvest it, expanding their capability to get it to local markets.

“Essentially a food hub is what we’re trying to establish here,” she says, enabling city farmers and gardeners to coordinate their efforts, pool harvests and reach more consumers. “And I can breathe easier knowing that I have a job for next year.”

Clarkston Community Center wasn’t the only metro Atlanta recipient. Also on the award list are Community Farmers Markets Inc., operator of the Grant Park and East Atlanta Village farmers markets, which will get $87,041 to provide vendor training and expand outreach into nearby low-income areas; Atlanta-based Georgia Organics, which will receive $73,203 to promote six farmers markets; and Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture in East Point, which won $68,750 to expand the delivery system from urban farms to area farmers markets and to promote its city farmers markets to nearby residents. You may recall hearing about Truly Living Well recently; founder K. Rashid Nuri just won Atlanta Magazine’s 2012 Groundbreakers award for his efforts there.

Also in Georgia, the Lowndes County Partnership for Health in Valdosta was awarded $96,858 to purchase a mobile farmers market van and to create a food hub and educational center; the Athens Land Trust will receive $89,529 to establish a farmers market in a lowÔÇÉincome part of Athens and to launch educational programs; and Community Health Works in Maconwon $87,165 to promote the downtown Mulberry Street Market and to create a mobile farmers market. In McRae, the Telfair County Board of Commissioners was awarded $63,153 to launch a new farmers market.