Bread Riot awards two ‘Next Step’ grants to help local growers expand operations

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, May 10, 2022

SALISBURY — The Bread Riot, a local food advocacy organization, awarded “Next Step” grants to Farmers Daughter Organic Farm and Downing Farm at the Salisbury Farmers market on Saturday.

“Next Step” grants are designated to help a Rowan County farmer expand their operation in a meaningful way.

Farmers Daughter Organic plans to use their grant to purchase two caterpillar “tunnels” to expand their ability to grow vegetables in the wintertime. Jason and Brittany Chester have three acres on her grandparent’s property, near Mt. Ulla. Their grandparents were “truck farmers.” Brittany’s parents later operated a certified organic dairy farm on this property. The Chesters are applying to be officially certified as “organic,” an extensive process. The release of purchased lady bugs and the planting of specific weeds are two ways they keep pests away from vegetables.

Jason is one of four agricultural teachers at West Rowan High School, working closely with the FFA program. Brittany is a food representative for Cargill. They have two children, ages 5 and 3. Jason says they really love “producing good organic food so we know what we are eating and what we are selling.”

Some of their produce is available at the Salisbury’s Farmers Market.

Downing Farms is owned by Jill and Tim Downing and located near Faith. Tim teaches and developed the ag program in Kannapolis. Jill teaches second grade in Lexington. They have two children. The grant will enable them to expand their greenhouse and develop an aquaponic system which will provide fresh vegetables as well as fish. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics which is growing plants without soil.

The Downings appreciated attending Farm School through the Cabarrus County Extension Office and continue to learn good practices. They state: “We started this farm in 2010 in order to provide fresh, local and sustainably grown produce in the area. All of our produce is sustainably grown by us, without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides. All of our plants are non-GMO and animals are naturally raised.”

You will find the Downings at the Farmers Markets in Salisbury and at the Piedmont Market in Concord with frozen chicken, vegetables and often duck eggs.

Contact them at www.downingfarms.net or find on Facebook.

The Bread Riot regularly purchases fresh vegetables from both farms for distribution to school children and to the Winter Harvest subscription program. Their expansion of winter produce will help supply these programs.

The Bread Riot’s mission is “to link farms to tables by supporting our small farmers and providing access to locally produced food throughout the community. We provide locally grown foods to all people including those who might not have access; we provide support to local farms to expand their production and reach and we provide educational opportunities to enhance understanding of local food options.”

The Bread Riot is a totally volunteer organization with a 10-member board of directors. Funding is through donations, grants and an annual fundraiser.

The Salisbury Farmers Market is located at 228 W. Kerr Street in the Railwalk Pavilion and is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through mid-December.

The Bread Riot is named to honor the Salisbury women who, during the Civil War, marched on downtown merchants to obtain food for their hungry families. There were “bread riots” in numerous cities during that time.

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