Federal grant money could soon facilitate creation of a farmers market in Tolar, and the first in a series of informational meetings was held last week.
Melanie Nieswiadomy, a community health social worker with Harris Methodist Hospital of Azle, met with Tolar residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening, April 30 at the Tolar Community Center to discuss the fact that grant money is now available to communities in Hood and Parker counties – along with 18 other rural and border areas in the state.
The grant money flows from the Centers for Disease Control, through the state government in Austin, to the local level. It’s an effort known as Transforming Texas through a program dubbed Long Live Texans (www.longlivetexans.com).
“That’s us. The whole purpose of the grant is to impact the wellness of the community,” Nieswiadomy said, adding that the hospital organizes workshops with the grant money, teaching residents about healthy choices of fruits and vegetables. And that goal is made easier through the creation of local farmers markets and community gardens.
She said that Long Live Texans set up food hub centers – featuring low-cost food vendors available to the public – at Ruth’s Place in Oak Trail Shores in December and in Acton in January of this year.
“This is something the community will own,” Nieswiadomy said. “It’s a five-year grant, and when we step away from the grant, it should still be sustainable.”
She said another goal of Long Live Texans is to make an impact on chronic diseases in each individual county.
“I like it. I think it’s going to go over good,” Tolar Mayor Terry Johnson said. “We’ve just got to get it out to the public and let them know about it. Hopefully we’ll get quite a few (people attending) this next time.”
That next time will be Monday at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 10:30 a.m. meeting the next day. Both meetings will be at the Tolar Community Center.
Johnson predicted positive social results – as well as health benefits.
“I think it will bring the community together, and people will get to know each other and associate again,” he said.
Tuesday’s initial meeting drew only one area farmer along with several other interested Tolar residents, but both Johnson and Nieswiadomy noted that the group seemed to like the idea.
“The ones there seemed interested,” Johnson said.
He said no site has been selected for the planned farmers market, but he expects it will be inside the Tolar city limits.
“We’ll try to pick a location that will be covered, out of the weather and easy to get to,” he said.
Johnson said it could start later this year, if the process goes as he hopes.
“We’re hoping this year, during harvest, to have a few farmers,” Johnson said. “If we have three or four or five this year, that would be great.”
Johnson said the farmer who attended Tuesday’s meeting, whose land is on Colony Road, has a peach orchard and also grows cantaloupes, watermelons, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, among other foods.
Johnson agreed with Nieswiadomy that after the grant money gets the project rolling, it should eventually support itself from the farmers market sales.
“We’ll sit down and see what it takes,” Johnson said. “We’ll be willing to help keep it going. They’ll be easy to work with.”
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