Food For Thought: Farmers’ Market Helps Veterans, Chefs Grow

Farmers’ markets are cool. They usually have fresh produce. Shopping there boosts local economies. It’s hassle-free and homey.

The Westport Farmers’ Market is that — and much, much more. It’s dynamic, constantly evolving, and a true community event.

One element contributing to all that is programming. There are demonstrations, projects, and ongoing partnerships.

One of the most creative and meaningful is called Farmers to Veterans to Community. The program gives military vets affiliated with Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport a chance to prepare farm-fresh food under the guidance of WFM’s vast chef network.

Homes for the Brave helps homeless men and women, and their families, attain housing and learn life skills.

Through the Farmers’ Market, veterans learn about the health benefits of local food — and job opportunities with area restaurants. It’s a win-win-win — for vets, farmers and restaurateurs.

Of course, it helps the entire community — and economy — too.

FVC began 2 months ago, with 6 women. Chef Jennifer Balin — a Westporter who owns Sugar & Olives, just over the Norwalk line — and chef Dan Sabia of Jesup Hall pioneered the program. They shop at the indoor farmers’ market, then bring ingredients to the kitchen at the women’s home. They demonstrate cooking techniques. Then, at dinner, they share recipes, and discuss life skills and employment opportunities. One job may already be in the works.

Chef Dan Sabia of Jesup Hall explains his technique.

More dinners are planned for February. Chefs Geoff Lazlo, Bill Taibeand Matt Storch, along with food blogger Liz Rueven, will participate.

Westport Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall is justly proud of her creative programming. But, she admits, Farmers to Veterans to Community is special.

“This puts to work — literally — our values of giving back ot the community, by helping those who have given so much of themselves,” she says.

What a wonderful recipe for success!

(The winter Westport Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane. For more information click here, or email director@westportfarmersmarket.com)

Chef Jennifer Balin’s delicious table, at Homes for the Brave.

One response to “Food For Thought: Farmers’ Market Helps Veterans, Chefs Grow

  1. This is awesome! Maybe we can get a big fundraiser food and chef demonstration expo in the spring outside somewhere, and raise money for this program! Well done all!!!