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By Janis Mork

January 30, 2013 (El Cajon) Updated March 15, 2013- Last week, Troy McKinney, Fresh Fund coordinator from the International Rescue committee (IRC), participated in an exclusive interview with East County Magazine. He gave more details of the future farmers’ market that will be set up on the Prescott Promenade in downtown El Cajon each Thursday starting March 21.

Like the IRC’s farmer’s market started four years ago in City Heights, the El Cajon farmer’s market will help both local refugees and the broader community.

The market has been getting encouragement and support from the City of El Cajon as well as local merchants enthused about bringing more people into the area, McKinney said. “This will be great asset to the downtown area.”

“We noticed the great benefits to the community,” McKinney said.  The Fresh Fund program provides incentivizes low-income families to shop at the market (i.e. those with SNAP- Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as FoodStamps, WIC (Women Infants Children), or SSI (Supplemental Security Income)). When participants come and spend $15 at the farmer’s market, they can then receive an extra $15. A percentage of stall fees at the farmer’s market will go back into the ‘Fresh Fund’ to incentivize more people to participate and shop there.

Anyone can come to the market. The food “is all San Diego grown; we want to keep it as local as possible. There may be some farmers that aren’t East County, but are San Diego grown.”

At the IRC, the food security department works with refugees in farmer training programs, such as aquaponics classes.  Some of these IRC clients will be selling their foods at the farmers’ market, generating much-needed revenues for the refugees and their families.

“We’re still in the process of community backyard growers to sell. It’s great for the youth and community to get healthy, fresh food,” McKinney said. “We want the market to be very inclusive from certified organic to backyard growers.” You can even get a hot meal there too.”

There are many health benefits to the market, including “access to the highest quality of fruits and vegetables you can buy from San Diego,” said McKinney, adding, “There will be more energy growing downtown. This is directly supporting our farmers and local economy. They can hire more people. We can grow our economy from the ground up.”

They hope to have “live music, with a DJ, and we’re open to any community partnership, like a karate demonstration or handing out awards.”

They’re also starting a community garden at the Travelodge on the Kaiser Hospital property in El Cajon.  

“The refugees have applied and gotten property, mainly Iraqis in El Cajon.” City Heights has attracted other refugees including Somalis, Burmese, Vietnamese, Karen, and Sudanese. Many look forward to selling their produce at the farmers’ market.  McKinney even admitted to trying the unusual food that’s grown there, including pumpkin leaves.

Anyone can participate in the garden “as long as you take care of your plot,” McKinney said. There is a minimal fee for water and irrigation is set up (water and hose.)

Whoever would like to come out to the garden can reach Anne Barron, the community garden coordinator, at (619) 641-7510 ext. 311.

For more information on the farmer’s market, visit

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