New vans help Richmond’s Shalom Farms reach more families in need

Posted at 10:17 AM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 11:42:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Alistar Harris drove his personal vehicle to haul Richmond-grown vegetables to markets when he first joined Shalom Farms in 2017 as their Mobile Market manager.

With the help of volunteers, his small but determined team grows a variety of produce on their Northside farm before delivering it to communities across Richmond.

The former Hanover farm owner was elated to talk about the farm’s new vans on the Westwood Avenue property made possible by generous donations.

“We have these beautiful, amazing vehicles that are both refrigerated and designed to do the kind of farmer’s markets that we do with our own market. It's been phenomenal. It's a big game changer for us,” explained Harris, the farm's director of programs.

The vans mean the produce can stay fresher longer and Harris doesn’t have to use any personal vehicle anymore.

Shalom Farms Director of Development Rainey Niklawski said over $100,000 was raised.

They initially aimed to raise funds for just one van, but the community stepped up in a big way last spring.

The vans allow Shalom to expand their Mobile Markets to more locations, especially to neighborhoods in need.

“We did a lot of surveys, got a lot of feedback and found out our markets were a little too short, a little too early, and needed to be in more places,” Niklawski recalled.

The farm distributed over 90,000 pounds of produce at markets last year. They are on track to increase that by almost 50% this year after adding three new locations.

Midas of Richmond, First Presbyterian Church, Beirne Carter Foundation, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, Nan Leake & Jon Shepherd, and dozens of community members made contributions to the farm last year.

Niklawski said their additional van will help with Produce Rx (food as medicine) deliveries and Community Kitchen Food Skills programs.

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