The Farm to Family food truck is a tale of resourceful ingenuity, pie-in-the-sky ideals and the American Dream. It’s also a tale of overcoming economic mountains to provide for families in need. Farm to Family is changing the way the First Coast views food, and is giving the term “food truck” a whole new meaning.
The Food Truck
A massive truck is the heart of Farm to Family. Outfitted with refrigerated cargo bays and filled with local produce, this food truck aims to sell $7,000 worth of retail products in three days of sales each week- at competitive prices.
Farmers price their ripe-from-the-field-produce based on the market, and the food truck is a popular stop with residents in communities all over St. Johns County who want to support their local economy and farmers. It has been so popular that its route expanded to more than 13 stops each week during its first two months on the road.
Scheduled market stops include Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, library parking lots, and Serenata Beach Club, where a group of moms there are so excited to have access to farm-fresh food that they’ve decided to make it a weekly moms group stop before play dates.
Farm to Family aims to be a self-sustaining program, to sell at a certain volume in many communities in order to offset lower sales in “food desert areas.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes a food desert as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” While Farm to Family serves communities with ready access to farmers markets, the USDA reports that St. Johns County has seven food desert regions, including much of downtown St. Augustine and rural Hastings. Farm to Family stops in these areas, and accepts all forms of payment, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, to bring healthy options to all residents of all economic levels of St. Johns County.
“Every cucumber you’re buying today helps pay a farmer’s mortgage,” says Executive Director Malea Guiriba. “Every $1.50 for a tomato goes back into the community. The impact is so far reaching.”
Guiriba has big dreams and an even bigger heart for the community. Her desire for sustainable change in underserved areas is unquenchable and contributes to the success of this program.
“Ideally, in a pie-in-the-sky world, this food truck is making nutritional and educational changes for all ages,” Guiriba says, citing its regular stops in impoverished and food desert areas.
Her vision is not limited to making healthy food more accessible. “We affect childhood obesity now,” she says. “Sixty years from now, this reduces the number of adults with hypertension. That child we’re getting produce to now…well, we’ve affected her whole life span. The truck is not just about food. It’s about access to nutrition, education, supporting the farmers we buy from – everything we do is about so much more.”
During a stop one recent day, Guiriba gestured for a market ambassador to help a customer grab a second watermelon. “You can have an extra one free,” she says. “We have plenty.”
“At the end of the day, we don’t waste any of it,” she says. “We sell it discounted to feed the homeless, help farm workers and feed 20 homebound senior citizens in Hastings.”
Meet The Farmers
Always quick to share credit, Guiriba points out that Farm to Family is the brainchild of two hard-working farmers, Chris Barnes and Ben Wells. “Chris even pulls from other smaller farms,” she says.
“All the farmers try to help each other out,” says Wells.
Barnes is a fifth generation farmer who longed to bring this new food truck concept to the First Coast. “Hey, you need food, we’re here to get it to you. This is the best, cheapest way possible and we’re gonna get it to you,” he says.
A third generation farmer, Ben Wells works alongside family and hired hands planting 1,400 acres in St. Johns County.
“We’ve been harvesting seven days a week since April,” he said one day at the end of June.
Farming is what he’s good at and what he loves, Wells says. Teaming up with Guiriba to develop Farm to Family allowed him to diversify his crops and also raise community awareness about local farms by going straight to the customer.
Keyword = LOCAL
Farm to Family sources from several local, mid-sized family farms. The truck sells local produce to people who want to buy fresh food for taste and nutritional benefits. This, in turn, provides enough revenue for the truck to go to lower income areas to offer nutritious food where there was no way to access it before.
Farm-fresh produce is accessible to thousands of St. Johns County families who needed better access to fresh food. Unlike shopping at a traditional grocery store, with this model every dollar is earned and spent in the county, and the local economy is strengthened. Farm to Family is a food truck trend that’s changing the community one produce basket at a time.