Since moving to Spartanburg, SC from Baltimore, MD by way of Cincinnati, OH last Sunday I’ve been settling into my new job, and my own apartment, the first place I’ve rented on my own. My roommates are Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) corps members as well, working with their respective nonprofits to better the community at large. From what I have gathered so far through my conversations during the corps member training session in Atlanta, and in our on- site orientation with the United Way of the Piedmont, my position is unique. Particularly based on the fact that a farmers market can incorporate so many beneficial systems into one simple bundle. This was just the reason that I applied to the farmers market in the first place. The tasks of increasing food availability, sustainable farming practices, developing local economies, improving health systems, and educating the next generation about stewardship of the earth can all be tackled through a farmers market, and with a little elbow grease on the urban farm. My charge of engagement coordinator will see that the facilities tied to the farmers market have adequate manpower to sustain themselves, fostering a sense of community and strengthening neighborly ties.
One of the problems that the farmer’s market has been having is to engage the community directly surrounding it. There have been some recent urban renewal projects that have seen whole streets razed, creating a food desert and a community that feels desolate. As I was shown around the area called northside, I saw the lots where houses once stood, the sidewalks that were undoubtedly busy with foot traffic in the days when the neighborhood prospered as a mill town, but has since undergone vast changes. I saw a community with little economic vitality, one where the pressures of gentrification are creeping in. This was startling to me, and I worry that the community may lose its identity. That is the last thing that I want, especially as an outsider coming in to help build capacity at a local nonprofit that is “…committed to increasing the supply, demand, and access to healthy, local food in Spartanburg County.” People should have the means to sustain themselves in this community, taking pride in where they live, making it a better place for their children.
With these concerns in mind, I set out on this journey as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Hub City Farmer’s Market. My goals in the early stages of my time here are to establish meaningful contacts within the community, both between neighbors, local organizations, and local government. In addition to this I would like to gain a comprehensive understanding of the problems facing the northside community. This goal is paramount to all others, and sets the precedent for my year of service. An accurate understanding of the challenges facing these people that live here are the only bridge to addressing the problems in a sustainable manner. I hope that I can offer a fresh perspective on the issues facing Spartanburg, and hopefully make a lasting impact after I am gone.