"I feel like I have to give the credit to our community. What I've found as a young person back in the community where there are a lot of opportunities, is people don't realize in a rural community you're not just the little fish in the big pond."

Our Community, Dessie Buchanan

Inspired To Make A Difference
Dessie Buchanan has always felt rooted in Clinton County. After high school, she lived in Great Britain for several years, but felt a pull to come back in 2008. That spring the community lost the shipping company DHL and nearly 10,000 associated jobs. “It was a time of crisis but gave me a foot in the door to start getting more involved in the community. We’re resilient in Clinton County, and we determined this wouldn’t be the end but the beginning.” Over the last five years, Buchanan said the county has become stronger, more united and gave individuals such as herself a chance to be a part of that. “That sense of spirit and unity has been inspirational to me.”

The Clinton County Farmers Market
As a result of the economic crisis in the community, the local food pantries and shelters were being overwhelmed. Out of that, Wilmington College formed the AmeriCorps program Grow Food, Grow Hope, and Buchanan took a position coordinating the farmers market and promoting local food. That was her first step down the path of becoming joint executive director of the Clinton County Farmers Market. Buchanan developed the market’s board of directors, the winter market, expanded participation and promotion and worked to make the market more affordable and accessible by accepting EBT, credit and debit cards. Working with the local food scene led to her position with Energize Clinton County, a nonprofit organization founded to lead a community driven response to the economic crisis caused by the closure of the DHL hub.

Finding her Fit in Farm Bureau
When she began her formal role as executive director of the farmers market, Steve Berk, the local Farm Bureau organization director, called her to introduce himself and see how Farm Bureau could partner with the farmers market.

Before she met Steve, she didn’t know she could be a Farm Bureau member. “I’m not a farmer, but there’s a place [in Farm Bureau] as a food advocate or someone who likes to eat.” She attended the 2013 Young Agricultural Professionals conference and currently is on the Clinton County Farm Bureau board as communications action team chair. She said Farm Bureau offers another outlet to work on community issues that are important to her.

Collaboration with Farm Bureau
Funding from Farm Bureau has been used the last two years to sponsor monthly cooking demonstrations at the market, “Fast Food from the Farm.” The goal is to show customers how to make fast, affordable recipes that encourage more use of local produce while increasing consumer awareness and fostering direct conversations between consumers and producers. The demonstrations started in 2012. In 2013, $5 starter kits were offered, which contained farmers market produce used in the demonstrations. The starter kits were given for free to anyone who made an EBT transaction on the day of the demonstration. The market also gives a discount on the kits to Farm Bureau members. Any leftover produce was given to the Clinton County homeless shelter. Buchanan said the market wants to expand a new program that Farm Bureau helped sponsor called “Downtown on the Farm.” “We had a tractor drive in, and the local FFA coordinated a petting zoo and we brought products in from local ag businesses. People can purchase from the market and use their produce to vote for their favorite tractor and then the produce is given to the homeless shelter. Farm Bureau is receptive to our programs and has been the main reason we’re able to have them.”

Want to become involved in your local community? Learn why becoming a Farm Bureau member is a great place to start.