I am Mary Ellen Honsaker, Director of the Dubois Community Food Bank of St. Thomas Church. Through the Food Bank I had a chance at a grant 9 years ago to turn a fenced old and unused playground into a Community Garden – the success of which led to the Food Bank opening a Farmers’ Market the next year at the church.
I travel about 200 miles a week to buy produce from Farmers’ Markets in Jackson and, when harvesting, Riverton. I also have relationships with growers in Lander-Riverton-Shoshoni and add them to my travels. We run the Market from mid-July through September. Proceeds from the Market support both the Garden needs and purchasing needs of the Food Bank. We average around $1,500 profit. We have few vendors – one young boy sells his mother’s garden excess, another person brings her canning and jellies. Occasionally there are baked goods from another.
Several years ago a former vegetable farmer moved to Dubois and volunteered to plan and care for our garden, with volunteer help. He’s greatly improved our soil! Two of the 4×8 foot cedar beds are rented out each year, and the rest, fifteen plus open ground, support the Food Bank. He has greatly increased our productivity in this 7,000 ft. altitude, short season site! He has also inspired many to expand or create gardens here in Dubois, and sells from his own open site now. We grow herbs – basil & cilantro, as well as cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, beets, carrots, radishes, summer squash, kale, chard, spinach, collard greens, mixed lettuce – and more. At the Farmers’ Market, held in the Community room next to the Garden, we offer our produce to be picked fresh for the customers during the 3 hour sale time (Sundays 12-3, but may change next year to Thursdays 4:30-7:00 pm). All produce from our beds is also available to our Food Bank clients at the Saturday morning distribution time. We have offered beds for them to grow their own produce, and thope that families will take advantage of this opportunity.
As you can see, all that we grow has a good use – along with just the wonderful presence of the garden in our church life. When I have produce left that was bought for the Market that might not last for Food Bank distribution I will put it in my car and sell it easily to business owners along our one main street. Rarely is there enough left to benefit a restaurant. I do buy in bulk on my trips when asked by local folks for ingredients (tomatoes, small cuckes…) for preserving in the fall, and flats from our raspberry farms for making jams.