Norcross Local Food Forum Recap: How Norcross and Gwinnett County are building community

Food Well Alliance in partnership with Georgia Farmers Market Association and Norcross Community Market last week held the Norcross Local Food Forum to highlight how Norcross and Gwinnett County are using local food to build stronger, healthier communities.

Nearly 80 people came together to share and learn more about how Norcross works with community partners to improve the quality of life for its diverse community of residents through sustainable measures and locally-produced food.  

New and old friends were able to share a delicious meal provided by Bleu House Cafe while a panel discussion took place on the impact Norcross Community Market is having on the local community and why local food is important.

During the discussion, Sagdrina Jalal, Executive Director of Georgia Farmers Market Association which helped develop Norcross Community Market, was asked how the producer-only farmers market benefits the Norcross community.

Jalal replied by explaining that a lot of people are apart of the market and make up the foundation of local food in the community.

Jasann Giliam, Co-Owner of Gilliam’s Community Garden, has been selling at the market for two years. She explained that in her first year as a vendor, patrons gave her feedback on what they would like to see sold at the market. So in her second year, she explained they are now growing specific types of produce to sell at the market for customers which has let patrons know they can request specific items from her as a farmer.

When asked if farmers markets, like Norcross Community Market, are a community amenity for residents, Founder of Sustainable Norcross Connie Weathers said yes and added farmers markets improve the quality of life for communities and are also drivers for economic development.

Weathers added that it is important for farmers markets to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve - to not only attract diverse shoppers but to remove barriers so that diverse vendors can sell at the market too.

Jalal said during the panel discussion that Georgia Farmers Market Association supports Norcross Community Market in a number of ways, including providing professional development opportunities for farmers market managers; offering trainings and food demonstrations through its Nourish program; and addressing accessibility of local food by educating the community on the benefits of shopping locally.

Through a partnership with the City of Norcross, it has provided Norcross Community Market with instant credibility, according to Weathers.

She added that in-kind assistance from the city - such as free space to hold the market, upkeep and maintenance of the space and trash removal - is invaluable for the market.

“The most important partner we have is the City of Norcross,” Weathers said.

Karla Casas, Primary Analyst for Dichos de La Casa, ended the discussion sharing her thoughts on the importance of local food.

Local food is important when it comes to health and resiliency, according to Casas, who added that local food also allows one to engage on a different level with the community.

“Local food is the way to maintaining resiliency not only in yourself but in your community,” Casas said.

Following the discussion, the audience was given the opportunity to ask the panelists questions, which included how to use gardening as a tool to encourage women and girls, specifically regarding STEM studies.

A special thanks to our partners and panelists who made the event possible.

What’s next?

If you enjoyed the Norcross Local Food Forum, we hope you will join us for the rest of the Local Food Forum Series this summer, which will cover health & nutrition, economic development and equity in the food system. The next one is Fresh 1: A Health & Nutrition Local Food Forum that will take place on August 23. Check back to register!

Stay up to date with our upcoming events by becoming a member of Food Well Alliance. Join us in uniting the local food movement, join here.