New farmer at HEAL Markets
There’s a new farmer at this year’s HEAL Markets – Bishop George McCowan. McCowan, who serves as a Bishop at River of Life Christian Fellowship Church, is now offering fresh produce to customers at the three market locations.
HealthVisions Midwest of Fort Wayne, the HEAL Markets operator, started searching for a farmer after Gonzalee Martin decided to retire. Martin worked with the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Parkview Health to start the markets in 2013.
McCowan says he was first introduced to farming 17 years ago, when he worked at the Washington House, a home for men with substance abuse disorder. Longtime local farmer Ephraim Smiley stopped by the organization one day and dropped off some shovels. Smiley encouraged McCowan to start a garden on an empty lot near the Center and involve the Washington House residents in the work. McCowan took the opportunity to learn about farming from Smiley and also found how therapeutic gardening could be, not only for himself, but also for the residents.
Since then, McCowan has been working with Smiley, as well as several Amish farmers to grow and sell produce. He has been selling for years at the Historic Southside Market on Warsaw Street, and that’s where he connected with Sharon Tubbs, director of HealthVisions Midwest of Fort Wayne, the HEAL Market operator. He was excited to join the HEAL Market team.
“Feeding people, and nurturing is what I do,” says McCowan. “A lot of families that live in the nearby apartments can walk to the markets. A lot of seniors don’t drive, or can’t drive, so when we can do things like this in the community it’s very beneficial.”
HEAL stands for Healthy Eating Active Living and all three HEAL Markets are located in food deserts, or low-income neighborhoods that have low access to fresh and healthy foods. HEAL Markets are the only farm markets in the area that provide a $1 for $1 match on all purchases with WIC and Senior produce vouchers. The markets also double all SNAP, or food stamp, purchases and accept Veggie RX, a Parkview Health program. Cash, credit and debit payments are also accepted.
HEAL Market locations and times are:
- McCormick Place Market, 3005 McCormick Ave., Wednesdays, July 13-September 28, 5-7 p.m.
- Parkview Health Greenhouse Market, 1716 Beacon St., Thursdays, July 14-October 27, 4-6 p.m.
- South Side Farmers Market, 3300 Warsaw St., Saturdays, July 16-October 29, 8 a.m.-Noon
For more information on the markets, visit HEALallencounty.org or follow HEALmarkets on Facebook.