One of the goals of EarthDance Organic Farm School is to inspire as many people as possible in the St. Louis area to eat locally and sustainably grown produce. This is a particular passion of founding director Molly Rockamann, who has dedicated her career to cultivating fresh, organic produce and educating people about it.
Located at 233 South Dade Avenue in Ferguson, EarthDance has recently morphed that mission into a new market in response to the COVID-19 crisis. For as long as it’s needed in the community, EarthDance will be hosting a pay-what-you-can drive-thru farm stand in place of vending at area farmers’ markets during the pandemic. The 14-acre teaching farm, which is just entering its spring planting season, hosted its first drive-thru market on Saturday, March 21, and the second on Saturday, April 4.
“This farm stand, along with other ways that different organizations and farmers markets have set up to get local food to St. Louis residents, makes me really hopeful for the local food movement,” Rockamann says. “This crisis time is introducing people to new and different ways of getting their food. I just really hope that people continue to look at local producers and local companies to meet their basic needs and essential services so the money is staying in the St. Louis region.”
The drive-thru farm stand operates exactly as its name would suggest: Patrons simply sign up for a share of produce online ahead of the market day, and then when they arrive, produce is handed off at car windows to minimize contact. Although the farm stand is geared toward those who are in need of fresh food at no cost, donations are encouraged for those who can support EarthDance — whether or not they participate in the farm stand. The model benefits the farm, which doesn’t want to see its produce go to waste amid the COVID-19 crisis, as well as those most in need in the community.
At the first event, which sold out online days before it took place, Rockamann says she was encouraged by the overwhelming response as well as the excitement that people expressed when they came to pick up their produce. In the days after the first event, she says families have shared their excitement with her about experimenting with various veggies and recipes in the kitchen as an activity they can all do together, and she’s also heard a lot of just general appreciation from people given access to fresh, healthy and no-cost food. For those interested in discussing recipe ideas or preparation methods for the fresh produce, EarthDance keeps its social media pages updated regularly and welcomes feedback.
“We’re seeing that people who are coming and are sharing the produce with their friends and family, it’s just increasing the demand — peoples’ neighbors, peoples’ family members are wanting to get their produce that way now,” Rockamann says.
Those interested in registering for the next drive-thru farm stand should follow EarthDance on Facebook for information on future dates. Given that it’s currently spring planting season, coupled with possible rainy days ahead this April, Rockamann says the farmstand will be hosted as often as her team can make it happen. She’s been thrilled by the response so far, and for as long as EarthDance can’t sell its produce at area farmers’ markets, she wants to continue offering the drive-thru farm stand.
The farm stand is more than just an outlet for sharing EarthDance’s particular harvest one weekend or another, though. For Rockamann, it’s most importantly a way to nourish folks across the St. Louis area and guarantee them fresh, healthy food during a time when so much isn’t guaranteed. Local farms exist to feed their communities, Rockamann says, and that’s exactly what EarthDance plans to keep doing.
“I really hope that we can continue to serve a lot more families in our own community,” Rockamann says. “I think the most resilient food system is one where we have local farms all over our region each supplying our own communities with fresh produce and with fresh food needs.”