Feeding Cape Codders one garden at a time
An agricultural fair, a children’s garden, farmers in the school, a coalition of farmers markets, historic harvest gardens and a collaboration called FLAVORx to study how a prescription of fresh fruits and vegetables can battle chronic conditions ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes.
Welcome to Sustainable CAPE.
Francie Randolph never imagined that a decision to move with her husband from Cambridge to Truro would evolve into a movement connecting the food we eat with the future of Cape Cod.
“Sustainable CAPE’s mission is to celebrate local food while teaching about the health of our bodies, community, and environment,” explained Randolph, who is a Harvard educated visual artist who has taught at her alma mater.
“We demonstrate the direct link between local food, sustainable health and wellness, and the importance of preserving the fragile land and water resources that directly enable our local harvest.”
When the Randolph’s purchased their 200-year-old farmhouse, they traded dinner parties in Cambridge for gardens, growing dozens of vegetables and fruits. Goats and sheep grazed their property, along with hens, ducks and a rooster.
Soon, they were bartering their produce with other local gardeners, meeting and developing a community of like-minded Cape Codders.
“When we moved to the Cape, we became so much more aware of the food we were putting into our bodies. When I became pregnant, it was so clear to me the relationship between what I was eating and the health of my child,” said Randolph.
The seeds for Sustainable Cape were sown in 2009 when Truro celebrated its 300th birthday. “Truro once was a community of farmers. Let’s come full circle,” she remembers thinking. Through school, Randolph had met many parents just as avid about their gardens and their town’s agricultural legacy.
Together with two actual farmers who own Out There Organics and Dave’s Greens, and guidance from the state Department of Agricultural Resources, the group brainstormed to develop an agricultural fair that over ensuing years has grown so popular that more than 8,000 people were attending in a town with a fulltime population of only 2,000.
“We made news with the longest cucumber contest, rutabaga bowling and a barnyard beauty contest,” Randolph said with a laugh.
A former undersecretary of agriculture in the Bill Clinton Administration, Gus Shumacher, who owned a home in Orleans and is a Wholesome Wave Founding Board Chair – a nationwide nonprofit serving underserved, low-income populations to make healthier food choices – joined the initiative, bringing along his own brainchild, a Zuccini 500. Contestants carved cars from zucchinis and raced them on a 24-foot race track Schumacher constructed himself.
Today, Schumacher is on the board of Sustainable CAPE. And Wholesome Wave’s initiative in nearly 40 states to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income families is the inspiration behind a current pilot medical study, FLAVORx, designed by Dr. Kumara Sidhartha of Emerald Physicians and Cape Cod Healthcare.
The study, which was completed recently, researched how a regimen of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased at the Orleans Famers Market, along with nutrition and cooking education, will reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body weight and waist circumference over a 12-week period.