In December, I had the opportunity to interview organizers and their partners, speakers and attendees at the first annual Food For Thought Conference, hosted by the Georgia Farmers Market Association. The experience was incredibly inspiring and I am pleased to be able to share several video clips from the conference with you here. I believe you’ll find the words of Sagdrina Jalal, the association’s executive director and remarks from several of the conference participants to be as thought provoking as I did.

In this video, Georgia Farmers Market Association Executive Director, Sagdrina Jalal; Keynote Speakers, Jeff Manley, General Manager, The Rock Ranch; and Derreck Kayongo, CEO, National Center of Civil & Human Rights; as well as several participants* describe the success of the first annual Food for Thought Conference.

Farmers Markets Provide More Than Access to Fresh Local Food

Since my childhood, I have enjoyed trips to farmers markets, meeting local growers, sampling, and learning the differences in appearance, flavor and texture of the freshest produce available. The buzz and social aspects of the market were fun and entertaining. The experience was enriching before we even prepared and ate the food that we purchased.

When I produced a video and blog about the Norcross Community Market last summer, I began thinking beyond the fresh food and more about the social and economic importance of farmers markets. I met members of the Georgia Farmers Market Association and realized many believe that Farmers Markets can be vital community building and economy bolstering organizations.

"People from all walks of life come together at Farmers Markets so you and I can benefit.", Derreck Kayongo, CEO, Center for Civil & Human Rights

My involvement with the Georgia Farmers Market Association (GFMA) and the Food for Thought Conference broadened my perspectives and showed me that farmers markets are much more than a place to buy fresh and healthy local food. When we support farmers markets we engage with our community in meaningful ways and contribute significantly to the local economy.

At the Food for Thought Conference, I was surrounded by passionate people who are working in significant ways to cultivate and help more farmers markets bring people together, bridge cultural gaps, educate and encourage better food choices. Farmers Markets, and the people who support them, inspire healthier eating and encourage sustainable living. While these markets support local producers they strengthen their communities as well as local economies.

Strategic Partners of the Georgia Farmers Association Also Shared Valuable Insights at the Food for Thought Conference

The Farmers Market Coalition

The Farmers Market Coalition is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening farmers markets across the United States to help them serve as community assets while providing real income opportunities for farmers. They do this through educational resources, networking opportunities and advocacy for farmers market managers. In this video, taken at the Food for Thought Conference, Jen Cheek, Executive Director described the coalition’s partnership with The GFMA and how its members will receive a pass-through membership to this national organization.


Georgia Grown, Georgia Department of Agriculture is a Strategic Partner of the Georgia Farmers Market Association

The Georgia Grown program is a marketing and economic development program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The Georgia Grown brand is respected by businesses and consumers who want to buy and promote Georgia’s locally grown products. Through the partnership, Market Manager members of the GFMA will receive a Silver level membership to Georgia Grown. In addition, GFMA producer members will have an opportunity to participate in Georgia Grown pop up markets. In this conversation, Matthew Kulinski, Georgia Grown Deputy Director, Marketing Division, spoke about the importance of the GFMA and the benefits of the information sharing that took place at Food for Thought Conference.


Wholesome Wave Georgia strengthens local food communities by empowering networks of farmers to increase awareness and improve access to healthy food while contributing to the local food economy. In this video, Sara Berney, Executive Director described the significance of farmers markets in the local food economy, and the many ways that we can work together to educate, strengthen and build the capacity of farmers markets while creating a stronger network. The partnership with GFMA provides additional layers of support from both organizations for farmers, producers, farmers markets, families and communities.


In 2016, I launched the GardenZeal website to use my marketing communications and PR skills to promote growing well, eating well, and living well. Our success in all that we do is dependent upon meeting these most basic needs. We must learn and help others get them right to ensure health and survival for ourselves as well as future generations. We can enjoy the beauty and bounty while realizing that the harvest extends far beyond the garden itself.

The connection between access to healthy food and the health and wellness of individuals, families and entire communities has been proven. In 2017, I challenge you to think more about your own health as well as the health of your children, neighbors, communities and the world we live in. Let’s lead by example and support local Farmers Markets. They are great places to get to know your community, make new friends, mend fences, encourage and be inspired to Grow Well, Eat Well and Live Well.

*Thank you to all those who participated in the Food for Thought Conference Videos (in the order that they appeared) Including:
Brennan Washington, (Georgia Farmers Market Association Founder) Southern SARE
Kim Hines, Executive Director, Augusta Locally Grown
Sallay Jabbie, West Broad Farmers Market Manager, Athens Land Trust
Jon Jackson, Executive Director, Stag Vets , Comfort Farms
Justin Walker, Junior Market Manager, Veggie Park Farmers Market
Cyanna McGowan, Graduate Student, Emory, Rollins School of Public Health
Jordan Barron, Sustainability Coordinator & Farmers Market Manager, Kennesaw State University, Culinary Services
Carmell Vivian, Oglethorpe University Student
Lolade Olowaolayemo, Program Manager, Georgia Farmers Market Association
Timothy Anderson, Farmer / Owner Green Planet Vets
**Production Notes:
Blog, video and graphics production by Laurie Wakefield,
Additional photography contributed by Warren Cameron, 5 Acre Studios
Video Music Credit: Solo Acoustic #3 CC By Jason Shaw