As a horticulture major in college, the health of soil was an intriguing subject to Elaine Nesmith. She soon learned that chemical fertilization and pest management methods were damaging the microorganisms that sustain its health and began to study and grow sustainably over 30 years ago.
Along the way, her family was able to manage many health issues nutritionally and could see the direct result and beneficial impact of whole, healthful foods.
Professionally, much of Elaine’s time was invested in educating students and their teachers about how to incorporate the outdoors into both science and technology projects.
“When young people see the connection between soil, water, biodiversity and their health, they become much more connected to the world around them and
invested in both its study and its preservation,” Elaine said.
She added that getting outdoors engages both the creative and the scientific minds to fully ignite a love of learning.
From 2013-16, Elaine served with Growing Healthy Communities-Hot Springs and invested heavily as a board member of both the Hot Springs Farmers & Artisans Market and the statewide Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention board to increase access to healthful foods and to build awareness of the benefits of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The ability to accept SNAP (formerly food stamps) at the Hot Springs farmers market began in 2014, and in 2015 it was one of six test markets to provide the Double Up Food Bucks program, which increased the ability of its SNAP customers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for their families.
“Combining an increased access to healthy foods with cooking demonstrations, tastings and health and wellness activities enabled the market to serve diverse population segments in a nonthreatening and festive atmosphere,” Elaine said.
In 2015, Elaine and her husband, Clay, in cooperation with Citizens Bank, the city of Hot Springs, the Hot Springs farmers market and others, initiated Food Truck Fridays: A Farm to Fender Event.
“This event is unique from traditional food truck meets. We require that at least one menu item feature a locally grown or made product in keeping with
our mission to encourage green sustainable practices while supporting the local economy via small business growth. The sponsors have been faithful in providing infrastructure and financial support to bring local music and local foods in our beautiful family friendly market venue,” Elaine said.
Food Truck Fridays will continue this year.
Elaine and Clay also plan to develop a lot at 910 Park Ave. for their food truck, Itz Gud Füd, which they plan to have open on Friday nights and Saturdays. Their goal is not to simply “park a trailer,” but to be involved with the UpTown community in its revitalization efforts, Elaine said.
Elaine said their mission with Itz Gud Füd is to offer high-quality and highly nutritional ingredients by sourcing from those who use intentional and sustainable practices. While responsible sourcing is an intensive and ongoing effort, they actively search for chemical-, hormone- and gluten-free ingredients while also focusing heavily on locally grown and locally made products.
They will be planting native plants on-site to support biodiversity and also working with Parks and Trails in its efforts to install native plantings at the David F. Watkins Memorial Park. Elaine said they eventually would like to incorporate other amenities that support UpTown at their food truck location, but will look for community input for the best next steps to complement the ongoing efforts.
The food truck will launch on April 29 as part of the 2017 Arts & the Park 10-day festival with food and music at a Farm-to-Table Taco Party. Diana Bratton from Taco Mama, local growers JV Farms and local musicians Ryan Sauders & Friends will be in attendance. The event will begin at 5 p.m. and ends “when the food runs out.” All profits will go to the Park Avenue Community Association and Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance projects.
Elaine said the event is their way of saying, “thanks for having us and we’re glad we’re here.”