Texarkana, Texas, has named an area livestock producer to lead a new program that uses food to bring the community together.
The city hired Annemarie Sullivan, owner of Sullifarm and Kitchen in Hooks, Texas, as coordinator of the Texas-side Farmers' Market's new Cultural Foods Program. The program is one of several funded by a Farmers' Market Promotion Program grant of more than $174,000 awarded last November by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The idea is to spotlight various food cultures important in Texarkana as an educational and community-building opportunity.
"We're actively seeking out really cool, different cultures within the community and celebrating their differences, learning about what makes them different and why," Sullivan said.
The first Cultural Foods talk focuses on vegetarianism and is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday during the Farmers' Market's monthly night market. Local guest speakers will share ideas about the health, cultural and spiritual aspects of meat-free diets. Future events will focus on different food cultures: Cajun in June and Tex-Mex in July.
"This program is all about finding common ground through common food in a common space," Farmers' Market Manager Holden Fleming said.
Sullivan raises pigs and chickens using a "regenerative agriculture" model that allows the animals to move and eat freely in natural environments. Sullifarm and Kitchen offers the meat through online orders and at a farm shop, and Sullivan has been a frequent vendor at the Farmers' Market herself. She sees her new job as a professional opportunity.
"I felt like it would give me a little more responsibility in the field so that I could actually do something with my ideas," she said.
Other uses for the grant funds include promoting and expanding the Farmers' Market. Adding new vendors is a high priority.
"The more vendors that we can bring to the Farmers' Market, the more local stuff we're able to put out there, the better it is for everybody," Fleming said.
Plans are also shaping up for a mobile market that would bring fresh, locally produced food to areas where it may be hard to find.
Texarkana's grant application was one of 49 in the nation funded last year, and it was the only one in Texas selected.