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Harper Amazed by the Farmers MarketsDate: 09/02/2019
The second Blue Umbrella Farmers Market was ending as Renee Harper, of the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center (SEAHDC), stood with her coworkers and clients when they got a message that left them basically speechless.
“Melissa Stone, Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), and Tammy Benbrook, DDS Assistant Director, walked over to us and told us that we won best in show,” Harper said. “Everybody from our center looked at each other shocked, smiling, not saying too much. It was a big deal.”
DDS has Human Development Centers in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Jonesboro, and Warren. The facilities give clients with a developmental or intellectual disability a chance to experience independence. At each center there are clients who make crafts or work in a garden. Many of the plants, vegetables, and fruits grown or crafts made were for sell at The Blue Umbrella monthly farmers markets that took place throughout the summer at the DHS central office. This was the first year that The Blue Umbrella hosted farmers markets.
Just like with the items and handmade gifts sold at The Blue Umbrella shop, all profits from the market went back to participating clients. However, the money earned was only a small part of what made the program important.
“When the clients saw their hard work on display, it lifted their spirits. I loved seeing it,” Harper said. “The opportunity also gave clients throughout the state a sense of purpose. It gave the clients an employment opportunity and a chance to visit Little Rock where they could be around new people.”
Harper grew up on a farm. She knows the hard work that goes into gardening. Being around the crafts and fresh produce from the clients of each center made her proud to be a DDS employee.
“Looking around the farmers market seeing the satisfaction on all the people’s faces put a smile on my face, too. I couldn’t help it,” she said. “The SEAHDC staff, we’ve already talked about our experiences at this year’s farmers markets and how we’re going to use those lessons to do even more for the markets next summer.”
For more information about The Blue Umbrella and its artisans visit https://www.blueumbrellaar.org.