by Andy Naja-Riese
The Grand Lake Market just celebrated a ribbon-cutting for an Incubator Booth designed to help advance food justice, health, and community resilience.
The Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA), and the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) have launched this cross-organizational farmers market incubator program for BIPOC, first-generation farmers who have traditionally lacked access to direct-to-consumer market streams. The program is designed to support a total of 27 ALBA farmers and KTA clients over the next three years, helping them explore and expand into farmers market channels. The program creates an opportunity for these farms to sell at three of AIM’s farmers markets over the course of a year, with participants rotating through each location every three months so they can cultivate and deepen customer relationships within different communities, while providing a broader selection of healthy, culturally relevant food to consumers.
Look for the Tikal Organics “Incubator Booth” under the freeway next to Schletewitz Family Farm every Saturday. For more information, listen to KQED’s report on the subject via this link — it’s the very first story.
AIM’s Racial Equity Fund (REF) is now open for a second round of applications. This is a grant program that supports new Black and Brown business owners getting their start at AIM Farmers Markets. The Farmers Market does not fully reflect the diversity of our food producer and farming communities, in part because the start-up costs of joining the market can create a critical barrier-to-entry. This fund strives to reduce financial barriers to entry by specifically supporting Black and Brown farmers, food producers, and artisans who are getting started at AIM’s farmers markets.
What the REF offers:
- AIM farmers market annual registration fee ($150)
- Free stall fees for six months at one of AIM’s farmers markets (10×10 booth, approx. $1,300)
- A $1,000 stipend for any market-related costs, such as: tents, booth signage, online marketing, organic certification(s), health department fees, and other critical but sometimes hidden costs of starting and expanding a food-related business
- Mentorship with an established farmers market participant or Small Business Development Center advisor, if desired
Learn more about the REF, how to apply, and view previous recipients here.
Andy Naja-Riese brings 15 years’ experience in community food systems, health policy, and education. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), a California 501(c)(3) non-profit that works to educate, inspire, and connect communities with responsible farmers and producers as part of a healthy, earth-friendly, equitable local and regional food system. Andy directs AIM’s operations, fundraising, and strategic planning through the operation of 8 certified farmers markets, mobile market, farm box program, and educational and food access initiatives. Andy brings a unique perspective to non-profit executive management after spending 10 years with the Federal government, including managing programs and grants with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Andy received his Master’s degree in Society, Human Development, and Health from the T. H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health and his Bachelor’s degree in Community, Environment, Science, and Health from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Andy is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and lives in San Rafael with his husband, Gary, and their rescue dog, Mac.