Posted on the Kansas Farmers Union Facebook Page on January 31, 2019
DELEGATE SPOTLIGHT: DONNA PEARSON McCLISH
National Farmers Union‘s 117th Anniversary Convention is rapidly approaching and we wanted to highlight this year’s Kansas Farmers Union delegates. First up is Donna Pearson McClish, the founder and director of Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc., a non-profit organization which is involved in urban farming and operating an innovative mobile farmer’s market.
Donna became involved with KFU first as a convention speaker, then a farm tour host, and most recently as a member of the 2018 NFU Fly-In. She brings a breadth of experience, a fresh perspective, and
2016 Convention: https://bit.ly/2UuvNKb
2017 Farm Tour: https://bit.ly/2RX5dMV
2018 NFU Fly-In: https://bit.ly/2RuFiqA
In 1968, on their 40-acre urban farm in Wichita, Kansas, Donna’s parents began this process of feeding the community by providing community gardens to anyone wanting to plant, grow, and harvest their own food. Their dream has evolved into Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc. which serves the food desert areas in and surrounding Wichita, Kansas. Donna is also a member of the Kansas Black Farmers Association. As the founder and director of Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc. it has been the company’s privilege to collaborate with the Sedgwick County Department of Aging to serve senior citizens of Wichita and surrounding communities by providing fresh produce that is delivered to their doors. The mobile market began in 2014 and has increased the number of senior centers each year.
“Common ground.” That term typically refers to shared values. Today, we’ll learn about an initiative where the name applies to people who are literally using their farm ground or garden acreage for a common purpose, to help feed the needy, elderly and others in their communities.
Donna Pearson McClish created this initiative known as Common Ground Producers and Growers Mobile Market. Donna grew up in Wichita where she lives today.
“My dad was a truck farmer,” Donna said. “In 1968, my folks bought a 40-acre farm northeast of town.” Today, the city of Wichita has grown entirely around it. On this acreage, her father raised vegetables and had a community garden.
“My mother rounded up the neighborhood children and would teach them canning and sewing,” Donna said. She also raised 12 children, of whom Donna is the oldest. Today, Pearson Farms continues to raise produce for the community.
“One summer my brother came to me and said we had extra produce that year,” Donna said. “`What should we do with it?’ he asked. I said, ‘Well, we could start a farmer’s market,’” Donna said.
The Pearsons contacted the K-State Research and Extension Sedgwick County Extension Office to get advice about opening a farmer’s market. They met with Bev Dunning, the county extension director at the time. “It turned out that she had worked with my mother on our front porch, teaching canning and sewing many years ago,” Donna said.
Shortly after that, Donna was on her way to a church meeting when her phone started buzzing. “You need to get a newspaper,” she was told. When she stopped for a paper, she saw the lead article was about Bev Dunning retiring from extension – but that wasn’t what caught her eye.
“The first sentence of the article said that Donna Pearson McClish wants to start a farmer’s market, according to Bev,” Donna said. “Oh my, we thought we were just exploring alternatives.” But that public comment gave Donna and her family the nudge they needed to proceed with plans for their farmer’s market which began on their farm.
The farmer’s market was visited by Donna’s friend who worked with senior citizens. The friend commented that her clients had received USDA-issued senior market vouchers which are only good at farmer’s markets, but had no transportation to get there. “Could you bring the produce to our senior center?” she asked. Donna consented and the mobile market was born.
It turned out that a committee of senior health center staff had been working for two years on a solution to the unused senior market vouchers. Donna set out to gather produce and bring it to the senior centers.
“In 2014 we started with 11 senior centers where we delivered produce,” Donna said. “Now it has grown to 33, and we visit most centers two times each month.” Many of these are low-income, senior citizen high rises. These include multiple centers in Wichita, as well as more rural locations such as Haysville, Newton, Hesston, Andover, and the town of Clearwater, population 2,431 people. Now, that’s rural.
This initiative is called Common Ground Producers and Growers Mobile Market. “We work with a network of growers within a hundred miles, so the food is local,” Donna said. To the extent possible, no herbicides or pesticides are used. Her grandson helped with deliveries and now trains other youth to assist. They distribute fruits and vegetables such as beets, greens, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, tomatoes, and more.
It’s a win-win situation. Senior citizens get local, healthy produce and growers have an additional outlet for their production. “It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work,” Donna said. “We want to expand and we are always looking for more growers.” Donna is also active in the Kansas Black Farmers Association.
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/commongroundpg.
Common ground. In this case, growers are using their ground to produce healthy food for the common benefit. We commend Donna Pearson McClish and all those involved with Common Ground Mobile Market for making a difference with this initiative. The results are uncommonly good.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/sty/RonWilson.htm.
Attended the 19th Anniversary of the Kansas Black Farmers Association. Hosted by Dr. JohnElla Holmes, Executive Director, Edgar Hicks, Founder and Board Member.
Hosted in the Big XII Room, K-State Student Union, Co-Host: Diversity Programs **College of Agriculture, Dr. Zelia Wiley, Assistant Dean
Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 8 AM – 8 PM at Pearson’s Farm
50th Anniversary Celebration!!!!
Where: Pearson’s Farm
What: 50th Anniversary Celebration
When: September 1, 2018
Common Ground Farmer’s Market 8-12 Noon
Food, fun and fellowship 4-8 pm
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Forget the days of walking the aisles and waiting in the checkout line, a Kansas family is bringing a grocery store to those who need it most.”It is so gratifying to know that we can provide this service,” said Common Ground Producers and Growers Inc. Owner Donna Pearson McClish.Common Ground Producers and Growers Inc. is a family business that provides locally grown produce to food deserts and food insecurity areas in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler Counties. “A food desert area is an area that doesn’t have a grocery store within a 1 mile radius. You can’t walk or you can’t ride a bike or get groceries, fresh produce and Wichita has at least 44-square miles of food desert area,” Pearson McClish explained.Pearson McGlish and her grandson Kalon J McClish Junior travel to a total of 31 sites each month.On Wednesday, the mobile market stopped at the Shadybrook Senior Apartments in northeast Wichita.”I don’t have a way to the grocery store, so I would rather get it here when I have the money,” said apartment resident and customer Ruby Roberson.Ruby Roberson, 61, said she relies on the mobile market to get fresh food. “Because a lot of people aren’t able to get out, so when they come, we love it,” Roberson said.”I think that it’s really great. I think there should be more stuff like this is the community,” said customer Michelle Copeland.Pearson McClish said she’s constantly surprised by the turn out at the mobile market.”Normally, they are standing in line and waiting for us and waiting to be first,” Pearson McClish said. It’s something she and her grandson not only look forward to, but appreciate as well. “It is wonderful!” Pearson McClish said.”We are stepping up to the plate and helping others,” said McClish Junior. Click here for a schedule of the mobile farmer’s market.
A Wichita woman takes her farmers market on the road to people who don’t have easy access to fruits and vegetables.
Donna Pearson McClish runs the Common Ground Producers and Growers mobile farmers market. The market will wrap up its fifth season in a few weeks.
She set up shop outside the Sedgwick County Health Department on Wednesday. Two tables were stocked with bins of tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions. Jalapeno peppers were in small containers. She also had okra this day, but it sold out at an earlier stop.
“Before the day is over, we will be sold out completely,” McClish says.
The mobile market buys produce from farmers in Sedgwick and Harvey counties and then sells it at 33 locations each month. Her goal is to serve so-called “food deserts” in the community—those areas where residents don’t have a grocery store. McClish works with the Sedgwick County Department on Aging to identify locations with the most need.
Most of the stops are at senior living facilities. The mobile market offers fresh produce for seniors who have limited transportation or mobility issues.
“You get to know the stops, and normally they are waiting for us,” McClish says.
Alicia Martinez stocks up on fresh produce at the mobile farmer’s market on Wednesday.CREDIT DEBORAH SHAAR / KMUW
Alicia Martinez saw the produce stand as she was leaving the health department with her toddler son. She was a first-time customer.
“I bought some tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos,” Martinez says. “My kids just love vegetables.”
McClish started the mobile farmers market four years ago. The number of stops she makes has tripled since then. She likes that she’s cultivating a community, and a faithful customer base.
“They don’t want us to stop, but we have to say, ‘When the produce is gone, you know, we don’t do delivery until it starts up next season,’ ” she says.
The mobile market runs June to mid-October.
Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donn was thrilled to get this report and photos from Donna Pearson McClish of Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc.., who is taking part in her first National Farmers Union Fly-In….
Good morning, this is a picture of our team meeting this morning at the Rayburn office building to get our day started. I think we have a very strong, diverse team: Zach (Pistoria) on policy, Tom (Buller) on extension service, Keisha (McClish Couts) on rural mental health, and me (Donna Pearson McClish) on SNAP and farmers markets. Tom (Giessel) is an excellent leader with all of his experience to help guide us and our meetings are going well. Thank you for the opportunities!
It’s a win-win for EBT users and local farmers: when you buy local fruits and vegetables with Double Up Food at the Old Town Farmers’ Market, Kansas Grown Inc., Kansas Grown Inc. and Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc..