Farm It Forward Update – Change Ain’t Easy, But It Sure is Possible!

Hi folks,

I wanted to post an update about the latest and greatest goings on with the Farm It Forward efforts. Since Michele McKinley, of Advocates for Health in Action, already posted an introduction and my letter to the Farm It Forward members on the AHA site, I’m going to go ahead and “lift” it to post here (you can view the original here).

Change Ain’t Easy, But It Sure Is Possible!

Thanks to guest blogger Patricia Parker of Ben’s Produce for sharing excerpts of a letter to Farm It Forward recipients on June 7, the first day they received their community shared agriculture (CSA) shares of healthy, locally grown produce. Ben Shields and Patricia Parker of Ben’s Produce approached AHA early this year about an idea to provide shares of locally grown, healthy produce to people in need in Wake County. Through a collaboration with AHA, New Grass Gardens, WakeMed’s Energize! program for kids at risk of type 2 diabetes and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS), Farm It Forward was born.

Farm It Forward will enable a small group of Energize participants to receive free shares of local fruits and veggies from Ben’s Produce and New Grass Gardens for eight weeks this summer, and also to participate in a free Cooking Matters class from IFFS so that they can learn to make educated choices about growing, cooking and eating the best food possible. This program was born out of the generosity of the farmers, support from the community and from our partners.
AHA expects to see this program grow! Stay tuned and feel free to contact Michele McKinley at AHA if you would like to support Farm It Forward.
Since Ben and I have been farming, we’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people we’ve met along the way. When we try to do something in return for those, many of them express that they already feel like we’ve been generous enough. It never really occurred to me that what we do for a living and for fun is something that other people would find rewarding. When folks come out to the farm, they get wholesome, nutritious food, knowledge about farming, a chance to get away from the city and enjoy a little company and sunshine. Truly, those things are beyond monetary value.
So, Ben and I have been thinking for quite some time that we would really like to put out there what we’re receiving. We can’t hold in all of the positivity that we’re getting – we just don’t have enough room for it between the two of us. That’s why we approached the folks at Advocates for Health in Action with a proposal. That proposal has turned into Farm It Forward. Who knew you could get things done just by saying you want to do it and then going out there and doing it? I mean really. It sounds simple, but not a whole lot of people are able to take that first step, and the rest of the steps don’t come so easily either. Somehow, though, we’ve managed to build a program that includes so many amazing people, representing so many great programs in the area. Sometimes I almost don’t believe this is really happening! Most of all, none of us could do this without you.
It takes a lot of courage, persistence, and effort to face a task or a big goal and then work toward it. And the more obstacles we have in life for achieving those tasks, the harder it is. I am truly inspired by you! So much so, that I am vowing to change my own eating habits and increase my levels of physical activity. As a PhD student and teacher, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. As a farmer, I actually also spend a lot of time in front of the computer (working on recipe cards, returning emails, writing newsletters, getting informed, etc.)
I also spend a lot of time outside working. Even though it’s physical labor and hard work, the kind of work I do doesn’t really get my heart rate going. It’s fairly slow and steady. Anyway, having what are basically two full-time jobs (one academic and one as a farmer) can be a little stressful – and when I’m stressed, I like to eat – and not good food either. In fact, since we’ve lived in Raleigh (it’s been three years), I’ve gained 40 pounds (and the majority of that weight certainly hasn’t been muscle!). The extra fat is not good for my health – and neither is my retreat to empty calories when I’m feeling a little stressed.
So, in line with the program, and what we’re doing here, I want to join you in your efforts to change your relationship with food to one that is healthy – one that is nourishing for the mind and the body. I want to thank you for being the inspiration and the catalyst that I need to live a happier and healthier life. I hope that we can embark on this journey together and that it will make the task at hand easier – and even fun! Change won’t come easily, but with this strong network of support and positivity, I know it’s possible! (Photos: shares of food ready for the cooking class and to go home with Farm It Forward recipients; bottom, AHA and NC Cooperative Extenson Intern Meghan Malka and Ben Shields loading produce for the program.)
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
 – James Baldwin

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