Between teaching yoga, working at a local school as an assistant teacher and yoga/art teacher, raising her daughter, and working as a translator and market ambassador at the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market, Melanie Pineda stays pretty busy in her community. Melanie was born in Georgia but grew up in South America. She moved to Woodstock around 12 years ago and six years after that she met Rob Miller of Trefoil Gardens — an organic family farm spread across 10 yards inside and outside of Rob’s residential neighborhood.
“We connected at the farmers market because I liked his concept of the way he grows food,” says Melanie. “So I started working with him at the farmers market by communicating with Spanish-speaking customers and teaching yoga at the farm.”
A healthy diet has always been important to Melanie. Growing up, she ate homemade meals with her family and visited local farmers markets to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. Today, fresh food is also a must for Melanie’s three-and-a-half year old daughter who lives with gluten, dairy, and some vegetable food allergies. “Keeping her on a whole foods diet is definitely a big thing that fights her allergies and helps her stay healthier.”
Melanie first learned of Wholesome Wave Georgia’s Fresh for Less program from Rob at Trefoil Gardens. Rob’s son also has food allergies and after starting to pay more attention to the labels on his food, he and his wife moved away from pre-packaged food and towards whole foods. After years of continuing this journey and dreaming of a space to grow food themselves, Trefoil Gardens came into existence and is now a Georgia Fresh for Less partner.
Knowing that she can use her SNAP benefits to shop for double the amount of fruits and vegetables at the farmers market versus the grocery store has made Melanie more confident in the nutritious food she can now afford to feed her daughter.
“Sometimes if I get a lot of vegetables and I don’t know what to do with them, my go-to is to create like a vegetable soup and it’s usually pretty good. [I put in] kale, rosemary, chard, large onions, green onions, baby carrots, cilantro, and a bunch of other stuff that I have in my fridge. It’s delicious!”
Melanie makes sure to buy a bag of produce from Rob every week at the Trefoil Gardens booth at the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market. She also occasionally picks up produce directly from Rob at his farm which offers weekly CSA’s (community supported agriculture) boxes of locally-grown food for 50% off to customers on SNAP benefits.
“I was at Rob’s garden the other day and he gave me a box of fresh strawberries and my daughter ate it in one sitting while I was driving, so that was pretty amazing. Like, fruit is just nature’s candy!”
Another reason why Melanie loves participating in the Fresh for Less program is because she values supporting local agriculture and the local economy.
“My goal is to eat fresh food and grow my own food as well,” Melanie shares. “But for now I love supporting folks like Rob… Food and diet in general is just such a huge part of staying healthy not just physically, but also mentally. It’s all connected.”
Melanie is always ready to point folks in the direction of the Woodstock Farm Fresh Market and vendors like Trefoil Gardens in the hope that Georgia Fresh For Less will help connect others in need to local farmers like it has for her.
“People need to know that this [program] is available and that eating fresh, local food is super important,” Melanie says. “I mean, not just financially for the farmers but for the environment it’s huge. The carbon footprint that you put out in the world matters just as much as your own health and the health of your family.”
She believes that many families are deterred from moving to Woodstock because of how expensive the cost of living can be. But with more investment in local farmers like Rob and more knowledge of programs like Fresh for Less, Melanie is optimistic that more people living on SNAP benefits would be able to make Woodstock their home.
“I don’t think a lot of people in the Woodstock community know that there are families in need. Through Less for Less, people are definitely going to be more aware of those needs in the community because the farmers market doesn’t just support families, but also the farmers and healthy lifestyles too.”
This story was contributed by Seth Roseman.