“It's all about finding those ways to connect with each other, and for us, that always happens around the dining room table.” — TG & HJ
Some neighbors will lend you a hammer, but the really good ones will work with you to build up your community. It helps when you live next door to a pair of socially minded Wharton Business School grads like Tatiana Garcia-Granados and Haile Johnston. In 2003, the couple founded the East Parkside Revitalization Alliance (EPRA), a community-based nonprofit that has empowered neighbors to transform their Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. EPRA focuses on environmental improvement and health promotion: It supports 100 gardeners who have transformed vacant lots, and since its inception has added over 700 trees to local canopy. Garcia- Granados and Johnston still live in the neighborhood with their four children. Johnston has also served as the Pennsylvania director of Center for Progressive Leadership, where he built the capacity of individuals and organizations within underrepresented communities.
They took another step for the neighborhood in 2008 when they founded Common Market, which is a nonprofit distributor of locally sourced food that operates primarily in the Mid-Atlantic Region. “We are building a good food system that is fair to farmers, fair to neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion and restorative to the Earth,” they report. They’ve created 20 jobs, and in the last seven years they’ve been in business, they’ve been able to sell eight million dollars of local food from 80 small farms. Orders that leave Common Market’s busy loading docks head out to provide healthy food for school lunches, hospital meals and cafeterias throughout the region. “Our work really resonates with our community,” says the pair. “We love having conversations with food service directors, local funders, chefs at fine restaurants and kids in our neighborhood about fresh, healthy, delicious food.”
Their kitchen-table advocacy combined with sharp entrepreneurial skills is about to go national. They’ve initiated operations in Atlanta, and that’s just the beginning. “We hope there is a nationwide network of Common Markets, providing local farm food to institutions in every region in the country.”