Mill City Grows will be selling local products from their mobile farmer’s market at The Grand Tasting during The Lowell Food and Wine Festival, as a way to educate people about the benefits of eating locally, while providing delicious farm-fresh food. According to Mobile Market Manager 4 Nichols, they will be selling seasonal vegetables, fruit, honey and maple syrup like last year, but have added local eggs, meat and cheese to this year’s menu. The company has existed for five years, and has worked to build community in Lowell while increasing access to fresh food, by partnering with residents, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other organizations.
At The Grand Tasting, the fruit and vegetables for sale
will come from the two community gardens in Lowell owned by Mill City Grows, while the eggs, cheese, sausages and ground beef will be purchased from nearby farms. The company’s best-selling tomatoes will be sold at the festival, along with cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, leafy greens, Asian greens and eggplants. At last year’s festival, Nichols “loved seeing the revival of the city of Lowell,” as more people learned about all the fun things to do here. He also said it was different from any other event because of “how concentrated it was,” with so many people filling up Lowell’s small downtown block. This makes it easier for vendors to make connections with their customers, and people can get to know each other.
Mill City Grows has participated in the Summer Kickoff
Weekend, festivals in the North Common, fundraisers at UTEC and UMass Lowell’s Earth Day festivities, along with hosting the Harvest Festival in Lowell. The Lowell Food and Wine Festival is the largest event they attend, and is a great way to spread the word about Mill City Grows and educate people about the importance of local farming.
One of the company’s main goals is to reach out to a
diverse audience, and educate people about ways to make local, organic food more affordable. All market locations accept SNAP/EBT benefits, WIC and Senior Farmer’s Market Coupons, as well as the Market Bucks program which allows for up to 50% matching funds to residents who receive benefits. Support from Harvard Pilgrim and the USDA Farmer’s Market Promotion Program make all of this possible, and these benefits and coupons will be offered at the Lowell Food and Wine Festival. According to Nichols, the company understands that local food can be more expensive, which is why they have developed these programs to make “quality food more affordable.”
Mill City Grows also reaches out to children by partnering
with local schools to incorporate gardening into their curriculum. Staff members and volunteers will build a garden on school property so farming can be part of the kids’ education. Nichols said learning how the food is grown “makes it more real,” and these kids will then be more likely to appreciate local farming.
Last year Mill City Grows donated 20% of their food to The
Transitional Center, and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, as a way to give back to the community that supports them and to ensure no excess food goes to waste.
This is currently the busiest time of year for the company,
from June to October, as they prepare for TLFWF, while still attending The Farmer’s Market and selling from the mobile market every week. Nichols said his favorite part of the festival was “creating pleasant memories with the customers,” since everyone “is happy and eager to learn more about the vendors,” and he can’t wait to see what this year’s festival brings.