Farmers and nonprofit community partners announced a new joint venture Wednesday in White Plains that promises to give people in isolated areas of Southern Maryland better access to healthy food, thanks to local farmers whose produce and meats will be sold six days a week through a unique mobile market. The kickoff event, co-sponsored by the Community Development Network of Maryland, was part of Maryland Community Development Week.
The Market is a farm-stand-on-wheels, the first of its kind in Maryland, that will distribute fresh, locally raised food to underserved communities in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. The partners in this project — which includes LifeStyles of Maryland Inc. and the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland’s local workforce board — will help build professional skills for people seeking jobs, especially homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals that may face obstacles to employment, according to a press release from Waldron Strategies.
“This just came as a very natural fit,” said Pam Wilkerson, a workforce development programs manager who represented and spoke on behalf of Tri-County Council executive director John Hartline. “Our job is to decrease these barriers and make these people employable and educable. … Along with working with the College of Southern Maryland [to get] participants into entrepreneurship programs. This is one huge collaborative that keeps growing and growing and growing.”
LifeStyles Inc. Executive Director Sandy Washington said the new mobile market will “make Southern Maryland a stronger community,” as its main goal is to help less fortunate individuals become part owners of an innovative business.
“It is innovative. We are not just looking at this as a business in training. We are working to have this as a co-op,” Washington said. “We’re looking for those people to be owners of this company. … That’s the American Dream and that’s why this will work in Southern Maryland.”
LifeStyles, established in 1998, is a “one-stop shop” in Southern Maryland that serves people who not only struggle to make ends meet, but also have limited public transportation and pockets of poverty amid growth and prosperity.
Like its counterpart, the Community Development Network of Maryland promotes, strengthens and advocates for this sector in urban, suburban and rural communities throughout the state.
Odette Ramos, who is the network’s executive director, said the mobile market’s public-private partnership “will accomplish so many positive things for the community.”
“The Market is an innovative enterprise to meet a variety of needs in the three-county area,” said Ramos, “and we know it will draw interest from other communities around the state.”
Derek Turner, whose family sells chicken, eggs and pork directly to consumers through Bowling Green Farm based in Bryantown, said he’s excited about the mobile market and happy to help people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to healthy, locally sourced food.
“It’s good for the farmers, too. This is neighbors supporting neighbors,” Turner said. “And, it’s LifeStyles and the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland making this area a better place for everyone.”
The mobile market, which will consist of a bus retrofitted into a farm-stands-on-wheels, is expected to begin operation within the next three months, starting in the Nanjemoy and Newburg areas. Full implementation across all three counties isn’t planned until September of 2020.
With local farmers helping to make healthy food more accessible, Washington said this venture is a “win-win-win” and she is thankful to be partnering with the Tri-County Council to turn it into a reality.
“That’s what we do — we collaborate,” Southern Maryland Minority Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doris J. Cammack-Spencer said. “We collaborate to make sure that we take care of those who really and truly need our support. We’re blessed to have this in Southern Maryland and I am so pleased to do what I do.”