Todd’s Table Opens for the 2018 Summer Season

Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Todd’s Table is a “a local, affordable source of chemical-free produce…”

This summer, the Todd-area community will have a local, affordable source of chemical-free produce and other local farm products. But more than just a market stand, Todd’s Table offers residents a spot to gather and connect on Saturday mornings in an unlikely place: the corner of a church parking lot.

Todd’s Table was conceptualized and created by Blackburn Community Outreach, Inc (BCO) and other community partners in 2017 with a mission: to be a food-centered gathering place that honors and catalyzes the voiced gifts, dreams, and needs of the Todd community. These gifts, dreams, and needs were discovered over a two year period through another BCO program, the Todd Listening Project. Sixty-two percent of the 116 Todd residents interviewed by the Listening Project voiced the need for increased access to fresh food and/or a community gathering place comparable to the old Todd General Store.

“The Todd General Store was… also a community “watering hole.”

Todd’s Table is open every Saturday from 8am-Noon.

Food access is a pressing issue in Todd, like it is in many rural US communities. By definition, Todd is a food desert–most residents live over ten miles from a grocery store and that makes it challenging for anyone, regardless of income, to have easy access to fresh food. The Todd General Store was not only a convenient place to get staples like milk and eggs or a hot morning coffee, but was also a community “watering hole.” One resident said in a Listening Project interview, “I’m just not going to go out of my way to meet new people in the community. The store was where folks born and raised here met newcomers and everyone got along.” Closed for several years and sitting for sale with little hope of reopening, residents still mourn its absence for the reasons of food, coffee, and connection; however, other Todd businesses and events are slowly trying to fill its void.

BCO joined the response by organizing community assets to open Todd’s Table in June 2017 as an income-generating project with more than a bottom-line. Open every Saturday, 8am-Noon, Todd’s Table is the premier place to buy Todd-grown produce and other local producers’ farm products. But unlike most produce stands, if anyone can’t afford what they need or want to buy, they may use the “Credit,” a set-aside fund that other customers have donated towards or they can volunteer in some capacity. “The “Credit” is one attempt to replicate an old practice of the Todd General Store,” said Todd’s Table co-founder Renata Dos Santos. “We learned from long-time locals that if you couldn’t afford your bill, former store owners like Joe Morgan or the Parsons would write your name in the credit book and either you paid it back when you could or you’d trade a service for what you owed and he called it even.”

A garden volunteer day was set up for interested customers and visitors.

“…we can be creative, and prototyping something new means we have one more place where people’s need for food and connection can be met.”

Most Saturdays, residents come to Todd’s Table to buy groceries but often chose to linger or sit a while in the chairs provided. “Last week two residents came just to buy produce but upon seeing the honey on our shelf, they ended up troubleshooting a bee hive problem with the beekeeper who happened to be there too,” recalled Todd’s Table co-founder, Jaimie McGirt. “We can’t replace what the General Store was for so many generations, but we can be creative, and prototyping something new means we have one more place where people’s need for food and connection can be met.”

The products sold each Saturday are grown in BCO’s own Beatitude Gardens as well as other local farms/gardens. The Beatitude Gardens program grows over 2,000 lbs of produce annually on the grounds of Blackburn’s Chapel and on the land of local Garden-partner, Lyn Soeder. Previously Beatitude Gardens donated nearly all of its produce to food relief efforts like the Hospitality House, Casting Bread Food Pantry, and Green Valley School’s summer food program; however, Beatitude Gardens founder and coordinator Matt Gundlach realized that the Gardens have the capacity to grow enough for free distribution and market sales.

A customer shows off his purchase at Todd’s Table.

Whether produce is given away or purchased, Beatitude Gardens strives to provide the best for everyone. “We still give a lot away, but by having an avenue to sell our produce and making it affordable, we have the opportunity for families to have a transactional experience that is often missing in food relief programs. That transaction can be important for the morale of both the recipient and the producer, for at the end of it, we all get what we need,” said Gundlach.

Todd’s Table not only generates income to sustain Beatitude Gardens but is profitable for other Todd producers, large or small. Lyn Soeder of Mathomhouse Farm had retired from other county farmers markets but now sells her honey, preserves, mustards, plants, and more just down-road from her farm at Todd’s Table–and because of her partnership with Beatitude Gardens, she earns one hundred percent of her sales. Other home growers and farmers have joined Todd’s Table to sell their products like eggs, blueberries, and pond-raised trout. “Small producers don’t always have an avenue to sell their home-grown products and many residents don’t know that most of what they need is produced in our own community. So we’ve “set the table” for folks to join us in our efforts, and we hope Todd’s Table can be a rising tide that lifts all boats,” said McGirt.

“The produce wagon, tent, and the circle of chairs found in the Blackburn’s Chapel parking lot is just “Phase 1” of Todd’s Table.”


The produce wagon, tent, and the circle of chairs found in the Blackburn’s Chapel parking lot is just “Phase 1” of Todd’s Table. BCO and community partners hope to scale up the effort in order to offer more fresh food, and further catalyze the gifts and skills of residents to meet community needs and dreams. The first step of this next phase is Todd’s Table invitation to Todd farmers, gardeners, and crafters to set up a table or tent adjacent to the produce wagon for no fee. If interested, please contact Blackburn Community Outreach at (336) 877-1706.



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