Success begins with a sound foundation. How many times have you heard that sentiment? Whether we are talking architecture, education or parenting, a strong foundation is the common denominator to success. This is also true of one of my favorite places on Earth: the Land of Goshen Community Market in my hometown of Edwardsville, IL.
When people first come to the market, it’s all about the food. Well, duh, what’s not to love about fresh, clean, healthy food. From local organic produce, to small batch artisan treats, to grass-fed, humanely raised meat, Goshen Community Market can turn a non-thinking consumer into a live-green epicurean in a couple of weeks—someone who plans meals and shopping trips around Goshen’s Saturday morning schedule and then gets serious and brave in the kitchen. My heroes!
In fact, there are more enlightened consumers now than in the past with a smaller version of the market happening once a month all winter. And the extended schedule is quite special as farmers markets go; Goshen must be doing something right to create so much success, influence so many lives and maintain its financial stability. In fact, they are doing everything right… including the art of sharing wealth.
After a few visits, I think newcomers to the market find there is more than they initially bargained for: they fall in love with the deep sense of community and the satisfaction of actually knowing where their food comes from and who grows it. They try out a free Yoga class on the grassy area. Their kids join Farmer Joe and the Market Sprouts in the little garden to learn how vegetables grow and how good they taste. Or they find just the right gift—given to them from the hands that made it—for a loved one or friend.
And if they dig a bit deeper (and many do), Goshen goers come to see that at the root of the market is a system that not only provides food and economic benefit to the community but also creates and encourages neighborly love and generosity, which all started from a solid Foundation.
A Bit of History
In 2015, Tara Eberlin Pohlman, Emily Morrison and Jessica DeSpain developed the idea for the Goshen Market Foundation and did the work to get it off the ground. By 2016, the market was able to strengthen its commitment to the local community by creating a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. “Our mission was and continues to be one of supporting a healthy local food community,” said Candice Watson, a market manager. The Foundation held its first Burgers ’n Brews fundraiser (now a popular annual event and coming up soon!) in 2016. And the rest is…yeah.
The Goshen Market Foundation uses its resources to reach three impressive goals: provide greater access to healthy food, encourage the growth of local agriculture, and educate children and the community about sustainable farming practices and nutrition. Providing an umbrella of support, the Foundation now maintains many programs in its effort to meet the ambitious goals it has set, including Food for Friends, The Beet Box, Farm to School, and Market Sprouts.
The Food for Friends program was created to offer an avenue for customers and farmers to donate extra goods to community organizations and the Beet Box,” explained Candice. “Those who donate provide free and reduced meals in the surrounding communities.” In just two market seasons, donations totaled over 1,200 pounds of fresh produce that was distributed to local organizations who serve those in need.
Jessica DeSpain, the Foundation President, credits Tara Eberlin Pohlman (also a market manager and the Vice President of the Foundation) for dreaming up the Food for Friends idea and Candice for moving it forward. “Inspired by Tara’s vision, Candice became instrumental in getting early donations and making connections with charitable organizations who could use the produce,” said Jessica.
In 2016, Jessica and Tara began researching Mobile Markets that could share produce with area food deserts. With a lot of financial support from the community, especially the Edwardsville Community Foundation, the Meridian Society, SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences, and the Bank of Edwardsville, their dream became a reality in 2018. As Jessica explains, “Sherrie Hickman and Jamie Henderson (both board members) were very supportive in making decisions about buying and outfitting the Beet Box.” The Beet Box is a way-cool food taxi, taking the market to the people when people in need can’t get to the market. And, you gotta love the girl power here, don’t you?
Farm to School
(Alice Waters & The Edible Schoolyard Project would be so proud!)
According to Jessica, The Farm to School program, which ran its pilot last year at Lincoln Middle School in Edwardsville, included a substantial garden on the school courtyard and an after-school gardening club. Its success is clear, as they are already planning for expansion into several other schools. “We held a professional development event for teachers across the county this year about how to integrate schoolyard gardens across the curriculum,” said Jessica. “Tara and I got the research started, but the project team quickly grew, at first under the direction of Jamie Palmer, former chair of the Farm to School subcommittee.” Now the team includes Katja Kopp, Amy James, and Harley James.
It Takes a Village (of farmers, bakers, gardeners—young and old–and friends)
There is no doubt that the Goshen Market Foundation has built a sturdy community support system, touching and enhancing the lives of many far beyond the large following of Saturday shoppers. But Candice made it clear: “These programs would not exist without the farmers from the Goshen Market.”
The long list of fresh food recipients includes Edwardsville’s Main Street Community Center, Community Hope Center, Immanuel United Methodist, Allison Cassens Childhood Development Center. That’s in addition to the customers who visit the Beet Box at Cottonwood Family Church, Fairmont City Community Library, Niedringhaus United Methodist Church, and the Soup-n-Share Outreach Program. So this is no small task, but one the farmers at Goshen Market are up for.
“Most of our donations are anonymous,” said Candice, “however one of our most frequent donors is The Family Garden. They go above and beyond to provide the programs with food weekly, increasing the size of their garden and fields yearly in order to give more. They harvest all week long to ensure the Beet Box is stocked, and they travel to our organizers so that everyone gets fresh local goods,” Candice explained.
Family Garden is, indeed, a generous neighbor, and close friends of mine and Don’s. You might recall my visit to Jackie’s beautiful farm last year. But they are by no means the only contributor. Biver Farm—where we enjoy a CSA dinner every Wednesday, Rustic Roots, Daydream Farm—where my very own CSA farmer Bruce Haas is the grower, Good Greens by Crystal Cooley, Brinker’s First Fruits, and DonnyBrook are all regulars who give with open arms. Then there are all those who just remain anonymous but committed.
In addition to traditional farm produce, other donations abound: “222 Artisan Bakery donates breads and desserts weekly,” said Candice. Even the education goal is met in a most meaningful way, as St. John’s United Methodist Mission Garden, the Farm to School program, and Market Sprouts Garden are also contributors, giving young community members a sense of purpose and service, not to mention a lot of fun.
“New this year, Market Sprouts is partnering with the Edwardsville Children’s Museum and YMCA on Goshen Road to grow Little Goshen Market Gardens,” said Candice. “Food from these gardens will be donated to the programs. Additionally, the Edwardsville Children’s Museum is an official drop off point, collecting fresh food donations for our programs.”
Market goers can help, too! If you are shopping the stalls on Saturday, consider buying a bit extra and donating the fresh food at the Food for Friends drop off located next to the Information booth. “Donations of both food and monetary gifts literally drive the Beet Box and these programs,” said Candice. Or think about becoming a Goshen Market Foundation Cultivator or a Friend of the Market. You can have fun, eat great food and do your part by attending the annual fundraising events like Burgers n’ Brews.
The Land of Goshen Community Market is really the best place in the world on Saturday mornings. You can find delicious food, talk with other shoppers, swap recipes, give your children the chance to be part of something larger than themselves—not to mention learn to love eating beets, swear—and, yes, change the world. It all happens 8 a.m. to noon each weekend, May through October….and now beyond.
And don’t forget to bring your own bags! The market is striving to go plastic-free. But if you forget, no worries. There’s a new Share-a-Bag program where you can pick up a free one…or donate one, if you have extra. That’s just the neighborly thing to do.