It’s one thing to have a Farmer’s Market wherever you live. In another thing entirely to have the market come to you.
Farm Truck 912, is one of Savannah’s precious gems, an innovative idea that sprung out of necessity and a whole lot of hard work. The mobile farmers’ market brings local fruits and vegetables to Savannah neighborhoods with little access to healthy food in an artfully painted truck (thanks to local artist Jose Ray) affectionately named “Juicy.” Along with beautiful fruits and veggies, the amazing organizers who work on Juicy offer low-cost alternatives for a family on a limited budget by having pricing comparable to bigger stores in the area and focus deeply on nutritional education as a way to combat diet-related diseases.
While Juicy hits a lot of local spots, the main goal of Farm Truck 912 is to be in neighborhoods which show the highest rates of poverty, food insecurity and food access issues in Savannah. Not only do they accept credit, debit and cash, but they accept and double SNAP/EBT benefits. For locals, many not only know Farmtruck as the answer to many of Savannah’s food accessibility and health issues, but as a a sight around town and evidence of how locals are tackling Savannah’s issues in a way that reflects the culture here.
We got to sit down with two brilliant women who are the Farm Truck’s dedicated team- Monique Godbee and Ayo Ngozi – and talk about how their work is transforming Savannah.
The Creative Coast: Could you talk a little bit about Farm Truck 912’s mission?
Monique Godbee: Our mission is to bring local food to all of Savannah, and most importantly, support our local farmers so we only buy within 200 miles. Many of them are of course at the Forsyth Farmers market on Saturday. But, we as an organization also grow some of our own food and support some of our own neighbors where we go to someones backyard if they’re growing lemons, or figs or whatever.
CC So can y’all talk a little bit about how you all came to be working with Farm Truck 912?
MG: Ayo was here first!
Ayo Ngozi: LOl, yes, I was here first. I started as a nutrition educator and not long after I moved here I met Terri Schell, the past director of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market at an event that Step Up Savannah was putting on. I was coming from a city that had a mobile market when I heard about the farmer’s market, I was enthusiastic and said “You can do this, and you can do that” and she said, “Hey, do you have a card?” And I said yes and she called me a couple days later and asked if I wanted to do nutrition on the truck. So I’ve been here doing that since the truck first started going out into the community. That’s how I ended up here. And then I met Monique when she started shopping on the truck. She’ll tell you about that.
MG: I was actually just a super customer. I would follow the truck when they first came out, and then they invited me to do some outreach. So, basically, I was just a customer coming in and saying what’s good, what’s bad, what’s working, what’s not working. At the time, the manager then, she decided to leave and she asked me what I was doing for work and I was like, you know just working part-time stuff and she said I think you’d be great for the position. So I officially applied and became one of the farm truck workers. That’s basically how it happened.
CC: We would love to sort of hear why y’all chose Savannah.
AN: Loaded question, lol. I mean Savannah chose Monique … Savannah chose her.
MG: Yeah, for so many different reasons. I got married and moved here. My husband lives here, but in return my father lives here, in Charleston and he was sick so I had the opportunity to come and take care of my dad, and it just kind of happened that I wound up in Savannah. I didn’t seek out Savannah. It just kinda sort of happened that way, for me.
AN: I came for two reasons. I came to Savannah one because I really needed a lower cost of living. I was living in D.C., I’d been there for 25 years and D.C. is just insanely expensive. By trade, I’m a clinical herbalist, when I’m not doing this that’s what I do. And I realized if I wanted to keep being a herbalist I would either have to move, or I don’t know what else I could have done. I don’t know how else I could have pulled that off, I would have had to get a regular nine to five doing something that I don’t want to do and wasn’t trained to do, and I just really was committed to doing my work.
So I first got my cost down as low as I could there, and then I was like why am I doing this to myself just go where it’s cheaper. My parents lived here, they retired here about eight or nine years ago. I’d thought about coming down sooner but eight or nine years ago I would just come and visit and say, “No way, there’s no way. I don’t think I could hack it.” And then I came two years ago, I just kept visiting because family was here, and eventually it started feeling like Savannah’s getting it together, Savannah’s kind of cool I could see living there now. Or, I could see coming now and I could see how in five years it’ll be blooming more and growing more. So, I kind of made a bet that it will continue moving in the direction I’m hoping and I’m happy.
CC: Farm Truck 912 is this really great example of what’s possible in Savannah. We didn’t have mobile food and now we do, thanks to Ayo and some other big dreamers. We always want to encourage people to look at things that are happening elsewhere and make them happen in Savannah. So, any words of wisdom, encouragement, things that y’all have come across that would make that easier for the next person?
MG: One thing I think that helps here is just to observe what you’re doing before you come in. It’s really easy to come in as an outsider and be like, “this place sucks and you need to do this and you need to do that and you need to do the other” and that’s just not productive.
For newcomers, to first see what is actually happening before you try to reinvent any wheel. It might be that the wheel isn’t necessary and you think it is. And to also be patient because it takes a minute to become a part of the community. Here I’ve found that it’s different than some other cities where it just takes a little longer here, but just be patient and consistent. That’s what I would think.
AN: I would definitely say consistent just to piggy back off of that idea, and also don’t do it if you don’t love it because this is a labor of love and if you don’t love it you are going to burn out quickly. If you are starting something new, it will be hard. You’ve got to love it at it’s very core and believe in it whole heartedly. Be patient with the ups and downs. Always rely on those who come and support you.
To find out where FarmTruck 912 is headed, visit their website: http://forsythfarmersmarket.com/farmtruck/