There's a new billboard on Highway 62 between Eureka Springs and Berryville that promotes Carroll County Fresh and our county's farmers markets. It's a small billboard and hard to read because CCF has very little money and very big ideas and it's hard to get them all down on what is basically a sheet of plywood. When you drive by Johnson's Landscaping look left and you'll see the sign.
Carroll County Fresh is one of those "Quiet Waters" outfits. As a non-profit organization, CCF's mission is to make sure that we have safe, affordable, fresh, and local food to eat--and that the people who make that possible make a living doing it. That's why they're reliably out at our three farmers' markets--Berryville, Eureka Springs, and Holiday Island--and why they hope you'll show up and buy some stuff.
Lest you think that CCF's mission means that the folks behind it are health food faddists, nuts and berry fiends, or back to the land Hippy Freaks who insist on organic cream for their organic farina, please think again. True, CCF has a few of these folks among its members, but so do the local Baptist Church and the local chapter of the National Rifleman's Association. Who also belongs to CCF? Well, fat, tired, and old white men like me, along with rare beauties like the Fabulous Mrs. Heartbreak. Who should belong to CCF? Anybody who eats food.
When I use the phrase "Quiet Waters" to describe Carroll County Fresh I mean it to say that a lot happens beneath its surface. Among those happenings this year has been an expanded farmers' market at Holiday Island, an even more robust CSA operated by Diane Schumacher and Marcie Brewster at Wildfire Farm, a Community Garden sponsored by the First Christian Church Berryville, productive meetings with local government to discuss collaborations, and submission of grant applications for funding.
Other things have happened as well. The Holiday Island Home Owners' Association provided the HI Farmers' Market with a grant to help kick-off this year's market. If you drive by on Friday mornings you will find an active and well-supported market that has benefitted greatly from HIHA's support. The City of Berryville, and the Berryville Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants' Association have also been terrific supporters of the Berryville Farmers' Market. Support from such institutions, like HIHA and these others, is critical to the success of any non-profit agenda.
Local farmers have also begun selling directly to our area's grocery stores, restaurants, and to consumers as well, and no longer rely exclusively on the farmers' markets to sell production. For the first time really, at least pertaining to food, the idea of "buy local" has become real in terms of the emerging and integrated exchanges between producers, retailers, and us, the consumer. These value and supply chain relationships are good for everyone. I hope you tell these businesses, like the Sun Fest Market in Holiday Island or 302 on the Square in Berryville, how glad you are that they are supporting our local economy.
Among other "below the surface "activities has been Eureka Market Manager Heather Quinney's invitation to attend USDA's Agricultural and Marketing Services annual farmers market promotion review process, and a growing number of local farmers who are putting up green houses and high tunnels to extend the growing season--thereby bringing you fresh produce and berries early and late in the season.
One of the most exciting accomplishments has been that of young Kari Keever who, with great support from dad Eddie, mom Mary, and sister Alisa, has become not only an accomplished gardener but a food entrepreneur as well. Under the tutelage of local musician and farmer Dr. Fred Mayer, and Jennifer Hudspeth, Master Gardener, Kari has learned how to plant, grow, and market and sell flowers and vegetables at the Berryville Market on Saturday mornings. What Kari makes at the farmers' market makes babysitting money look like chicken feed. But, more to the point, she is learning valuable business skills and getting into meaningful connection with her neighbors. We should also note that the Keever family volunteers at Loaves and Fishes and donates their excess produce there. The Keever's are certainly Good Neighbors, and we're glad they've moved to Berryville.
Stay tuned in to Carroll County Fresh because you'll want to know how it succeeds over the next year. As a sustainable agriculture advocate and practitioner, CCF is on the frontlines of what can only be described as the new food revolution in the United States. Farmers Markets and CSAs are growing exponentially, supply chains are shortening at an ever increasing rate, and we as citizens are becoming less and less dependent on corporate behemoths and foreign countries for the Simple Gifts that local agriculture helps us exchange with one another.