How the North Coast Growers’ Association gives back
For the farmers in the North Coast Growers’ Association, Thursday is a big day. For the past two years, between June 1st and mid-October, the McKinleyville Farmers Market takes over a select parking lot on the corner of Central Avenue and Pickett Road. Between 3:30 and 6:00pm, the market provides the community with healthy, sustainable goods, live entertainment and often even local food vendors.
“The farmers market is a really beautiful group to be a part of,” said Casandra Kelly, a North Coast Growers’ Association (NCGA) volunteer. “On a personal and local level, having this available has been a huge community builder.”
The NCGA has been helping support local growers, local economy and healthy families since 1979, when they were established. They have slowly expanded over the years to five different markets around Humboldt County, McKinleyville being their newest development.
Many of the farmers in the NCGA have been involved in the farming community for years now, while others like Tiffany Van Buskirk, owner of Mamma Gerty’s Goat Milk soap, are fairly new to the game. Van Buskirk and her husband own a small farm in McKinleyville, and joined the NCGA five months ago.
“We started selling soap to pay for our goats’ feed at first,” Van Buskirk said. “Then we started seeing people come back every week.”
Mamma Gerty’s strives to keep their farm as natural as possible by never using fragrance oils and using pure essential oils in their place. For people with easily irritated skin, this policy is quite beneficial.
“While it seems like something simple, a bar of soap can affect someone’s life,” Van Buskirk said. “It makes us feel really good to help those with sensitive skin, and we’ll keep coming [to farmers markets] as long as we keep helping people.”
The main goal of the North Coast Growers’ Association is to make significant contributions to the health and well being of the community and every one of their farmers contributes in some way. Emily Catherine, a 24 year-old farm partner employee of Brunner Family Farm, has been involved with the NCGA’s “Know Your Farmer” program for two years now. This initiative partners with different schools in Humboldt County to bring second and third grade children into the agriculture environment; showing kids different aspects of farming, such as gardening, harvesting and composting.
“The kids are at a really great age to be interested and curious,” Catherine said. “They’re more likely to ask questions and participate. You can definitely see kids light up when they dig a carrot out of the ground, wash it off and take a bite.”
The NCGA has also organized grant funding for individuals with CalFresh EBT cards and those on a supplemental security income (SSI). The association has even enacted an incentive program that offers extra money to CalFresh and SSI recipients who use their benefits at the farmers market.
“The grant money has made a large impact on people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to healthy food,” Kelly said. “It’s really incredible that we have the ability to offer this program at the farmers market and it’s had an amazing impact on the impoverished members of the community.”